Saturday, February 28, 2009


I've always wanted to throw a paper airplane a long distance. Follow the flight of this paper airplane as it's thrown from the 31st floor a building in lower Manhattan.

At the end of this clip, I was sort of hoping the person in the car would get out and throw the airplane again... perhaps back up to the 31st floor from whence it came.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What Religious State Are You In...

An analysis of more than 350,000 interviews conducted by Gallup in 2008 finds Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas to be the most religious states in the nation. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts are the least religious states. Texas made it into the Top 10 with a tie of Kentucky.

The question the Gallop pollsters asked respondents was, "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" 85% of Mississippians surveyed indicated it was, while only 42% of Vermonters indicated such. (Of the Texans and Kentuckians surveyed, 75% affirmed religion to be an important part of their daily life.)

It would seem that when it comes to self-identified religiosity, what region of the country one lives in does make a difference.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blah, Blah, Blah...

I was smacked between the eyes by this recent post from James MacDonald. James is the senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. He wrote:

"Why does it seem that most of the people talk talk talking about reaching the culture are doing such a meager job of it. Why is it that from frustrated old college professors to angry young mega church haters, the vast majority of people waxing eloquent about their passion to penetrate the culture with the gospel are bearing such scanty, sparse, spartan, even scarce fruit? By fruit I mean actual living breathing men and women turning from sin and self and embracing Jesus Christ as Savior and Master of their souls..."

James continues…

I think some people need to be a little more honest about what they really mean when they say “reaching the culture.” Here’s three things I think they mean:

1) They mean reaching people very different from themselves.

2) They mean reaching secular people who have no interest in God.

3) They mean reaching cool people who make them feel cool.

I think it’s high time we started challenging the ‘talk about it people’ to get over themselves and dive into the messy business of actually doing it. Cultures don’t come to Christ... people do, one at a time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Too Funny...

We'll be using this clip to promote Sunday's "We Are The Sermon" Day (WATS) Fair and to encourage SoHills members to sign-up as a WATS volunteer. Lisa Linn, who serves on our WATS Leadership Team, plays the "good cop"... and her dentist husband, Gary, gives an Oscar worthy performance in the role of the "bad cop/dentist."

I laugh out loud every time I watch this clip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Be A Light...

This picture was taken during SoHills' Refresh gathering this past Sunday, April 22. As we celebrated Jesus presence among us in the sharing of his Supper, we rejoiced that we had been called out of the dark places we had inhabited into God's marvelous light. We now were to live as people who reflected the light of Jesus.

The points of light you see in the picture represent over a thousand glow sticks that were ignited by people committing to live their lives as lights for God. It was a very cool... and very encouraging... sight.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Servant or Sucker...

For the past several weeks the YoungMarrieds class I teach at SoHills on Sunday mornings has been talking about how those of us who seek to be Christ-followers should respond to people we encounter who appear to be in need.

We’ve all been there. You pull up to a stop light and see a man or woman standing by the side of the road with a cardboard sign asking for a handout. Their hand written sign indicates they are one, or more, of the following: homeless, hungry, stranded in town, without a job, a disabled veteran.

Or someone approaches you in a Wal-Mart parking lot and asks for money in order to put gas in their car. They indicate they've just gotten out of an addiction rehab program and they're on their way to a nearby city where a job awaits them.

What do you do?

Do you give money knowing the person may use it to buy drugs or alcohol... or do you say “no” or even ignore the person as you drive/walk by? No one wants to be a sucker in these situations, but at the same time, Jesus’ call to help the poor echoes in our hearts and minds.

Realizing there are no easy answers to any of these situations, I found the following "ABCs of helping" to be useful:

Acknowledge the person has a problem.
Do not Believe everything you see or hear.
Compassion is not judged by giving people what they want.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Still In HIS Hands...

This image inspired and encouraged me.

Buckhead Church developed this graphic to use in support of a new series they'll begin this weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Jaded: “Having the condition of cynicism and bitterness with pain at the root.”

Can you relate to feeling jaded? You used to be excited about life’s possibilities—ready to cut a new trail, but somewhere along the way life took away your excitement and left you dull.

ll of us want to be happy… I know I do. In fact, many of my major life decisions are made because I think the solution I choose will bring me greater happiness than my current situation.

In college I drove a Dodge Dart. It was one of the most reliable cars I've ever owned. However, I just had to have a sportier car... so I got rid of my faithful Dodge Dart and purchased an MGB... which was the most unreliable car I've ever owned.

For you it may not be a car… maybe it’s your relationships, job, etc.
- What are you counting on right now to make you happy?
- What’s a decision you made recently thinking it would make you happy?

When our dreams don’t come true we can become disillusioned. Depending on how we deal with that disillusionment, we can become cynical. Cynicism, over time, makes us jaded… we refuse to invest ourselves in life and we’re only left with despair.

Think about the example God gives us through His commitment to a relationship with humanity. God has opened Himself up to every possibility of disappointment. (Take a moment to read
Genesis 3:1-13.)

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they brought pain and sin into the world. Sooner or later, sin brings pain to us and to those around us. How do you think God felt when Adam and Eve deliberately turned against Him in the Garden of Eden? God removed Adam and Eve from the garden and placed them into the wild to live out the effects of their choices.

Yet at the same time God was handing out discipline, He showed His love for Adam and Eve by covering their nakedness. (Genesis 3:21)
Even when He is disciplining us, God is always thinking about our future. He doesn’t give up on us… He still moves forward.

It’s easy to become disillusioned when we face the fact that life is far from perfect.
Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to. We have hopes—we face failures. We become wounded… and then some of us become cynical, then jaded.

It’s incredible to know we have a God who is always working to bring healing and hope to our world. And through Jesus we are offered release from the jaded cycle… and the opportunity to live with a sense of hope.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love Your Enemy...

I love the simple, yet beautiful, way this video illustrates Jesus' command that we love one other.


A simple, yet very effective, way to teach about loving your enemies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Some time ago, there was a teenage girl in Memphis, Tennessee. She was a good student, well-liked by her friends at school and loved to dance. But she got some unexpected news that threatened to change all of that. She found out she was pregnant. She was faced with a decision, and the effects of it's outcome would be incalculable regardless of what she choose.

She decided that she could not adequately provide for the tiny life growing inside of her. She wanted more for her unborn child than she could offer. She knew others would be able to give her baby everything she couldn't. She choose adoption.

There was a family of three in Alabama - a father, a mother and a daughter. The parents wanted to add to their family, but were having great difficulty doing so. They had so much love to give. They desperately wanted to share their lives with another. They choose adoption.

There was a baby girl born in Memphis that found an incredible family and a new home in Alabama. The little girl was given everything in life she could have ever wanted. The prayers of many were answered and lives were forever changed. It all started with the brave, selfless decision of a teenage girl in Memphis.

Tonight, there is a pregnant girl just outside of Nashville that has made this same brave, selfless decision. She has chosen adoption. She has chosen a family for her unborn child.

Tonight, the little girl born in Memphis and raised in Alabama is eagerly anticipating tomorrow. She will have the privilege of helping the pregnant girl make it to Nashville to meet the parents she's chosen for her unborn child. By doing so, that little adopted girl remembers the teenage girl and the decision made in Memphis. She remembers her family and the wonderful life she was given in Alabama. She hopes that tomorrow will be the beginning of the same type of beautiful journey for the birth mother and adoptive parents she'll meet.

My cousin, Sunny Vann, posted the above on her Facebook page on Sunday night under the heading "Paying It Forward." She is the "little girl born in Memphis and raised in Alabama." Sunny was, and is, a special gift from God to our family.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My talented ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, hit another home-run in creating this video. (I'm nominating Jake for an Oscar for "Cutest Kid in a Leading Role.") We used this video at SoHills this past Sunday in support of our morning's theme that we "draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles." (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Did you spot the family dog's face in the kitchen window?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Church United...

The following post by Kevin Colón stirred my thinking. Kevin serves as the lead pastor for the Cool River Church in Superior, Colorado.

Why is it that churches in America compete with each other?
Why are we happy when a church down the street doesn't do well?

Why are we upset when a new church starts in our area?

Why are we good about talking about each other but not so good about helping each other?

Why do we allow people to jump back and forth between our churches without communication (and in some cases warning)?

Why do we let each other struggle?

Why do we let our neighbor churches die?

What if the church could be known today as it was in the New Testament?

The church of Denver

The church of Boston

The church of San Francisco

The church of Miami

The church of Salt Lake City

The church of Nashville

The church of Las Vegas

The church of Charlotte

The church of Portland

The church of St. Louis

The church of Phoenix

The church of Detroit

The church of Dallas

The church of Abilene (Vann: I added this.)

The local church has for too long thought only of itself and its ministry. Everyone else... well... you know... good luck, we'll pray for you... I guess. We don't really care about each other.

What is it going to take for us to fight together and defend the Bride united? How about:

1. Open and honest conversation. We've got to be honest with each other about the struggles we are going through. Well... we should actually talk to each other first.

2. Collaboration and Cooperation. We've got to make it a priority of our ministries to work together (and not just in our denomination... but with the whole church... our differences are killing us)

3. Protection. Speak up and Speak out. Don't let the church be destroyed because you didn't say anything.

4. Support. Let's come along side churches/ministers... to cheer them on, to help them out, to rebuke in love.

5. Humility. We have to listen to the collective wisdom of trusted Kingdom churches around us.

6. _____________. Your turn. Fill in the blank. What do you think?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Man Who Needs No Introduction...

One of the kings of comedy introduces the King of Kings. Here's Steve Harvey's take on how he'd word the introduction of Jesus.

How would you introduce Jesus to a concert hall crowd?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Make The "365 Commitment"...

We recently asked people at SoHills to make the "365 Commitment to Kindness." The purpose behind the 365 commitment is simple, yet powerful... keep your eyes open on a daily basis for ways in which you can show the kindness of Jesus to others. The 365 aspect of the commitment means that this is an every day of the year opportunity... not just on certain days of the week or month when we might "feel like it."

To support of the "365 Commitment to Kindness" SoHills has launched "Southern Hills 365" -- a Facebook group where people can share opportunities for, and experiences of, acts of kindness God places before them each day. The goal is that members of the group will provide one another with encouragement and inspiration.

Opportunities to show the love of Christ to a hurting world lie all around us. We find them in the grocery store, at the bank, at school, on the road, and wherever the day takes us. Since we are a people changed by the selfless kindness of Christ, we want to be the walking, talking, serving expression of Him.

Click here to visit "Southern Hills 365."

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Newspring church in Anderson, South Carolina has just begun a Sunday series about marriage relationships called Here's the video they produced to open the series. Disclaimer: this clip is painful to watch.

This clip makes me sad. It also ignites within me a passion to guard and protect my marriage, and to be a Christ-like example of a God-honoring marriage to younger couples.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

God is Good...

As it approaches 3 million views, I continue to be amazed at how God is using the little video "Stethoscope" to touch hearts and lives. Mary Haines, my ministry assistant, recently received the following email from a woman in another state who had viewed "Stethoscope."

I have now seen it all... a Church of Christ that uses Handel's Hallelujah Chorus to illustrate Christ in us!
The Church of Christ I attended as a child would've had a "conniption fit" at the very idea of a hymn with musical instruments, and yet I clearly hear violins on that rendition of the Chorus. The Church of Christ I attended as a child drove me relentlessly, mercilessly, inexorably away from a loving God. Satan had a powerful legalistic, Pharisaical presence in that church, so I am glad to see that some Churches of Christ these days have escaped his ugly, painful, venomous grasp. Providentially for me, God was stronger than that little Church of Christ with a heart of stone, and today, Jesus Christ is my Lord, Savior, and loving Master. May God continue to bless your church as you turn around the harsh, unsparing Church of Christ one broken believer at a time.

Our God reigns.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Great Opportunity...

“The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation.”Al Reis, Focus

If you, like me, are 45 years-old or older, there's a pretty good possibility that the next great Kingdom of God idea won’t come from you or me. Instead, our great opportunity is to constantly seek out the next generation (and the one behind it) and hear what they are thinking. Our great opportunity is to enable their visions to come true.

Eat lunch (or several lunches... I recommend Sharky's) with a group of 19-25 year-olds. Talk little, ask questions and listen a lot.

If we want to find examples of radically different thinking, we should be paying attention to what youth ministers are talking about.

Fellow Baby Boomers, let's not do to the next generation what was done to ours. Let's not say, “We don’t do things like that.” Let's stop and really think about what the generations behind us are proposing. Let's supply them with prayers, encouragement, money, and the freedom to fail.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Just Wondering...

I'm wondering what would happen if those of us in leadership roles at SoHills invited the voices of our 18-34 year-olds to speak out about the future of the church.

I'm wondering what would happen if old men embraced the visions of younger men and women.

I'm wondering what would happen if the younger men and women embraced the dreams that God had given the old men.

Remember how passionate Peter was in Acts 2 when he quoted the prophet Joel: "Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." (Acts 2:17, NIV)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mailed Any Skunks Lately...

Someone mailing a dead skunk to a taxidermist caused a foul incident earlier this week. The Oakbrook Post Office in Summerville, South Carolina was evacuated when an employee reported a suspicious odor coming from a package that turned out to be a dead skunk on its way to a taxidermist, authorities said.

“It was described as a 'bomb odor,' but I don’t know how (the employee) would know that,” Summerville Fire Chief Ed Genthert said.

The postal employee who came upon the package was so disturbed by the odor that he wrapped it in two bags, placed it in a five gallon bucket and took it outside to a rear loading dock. Several dozen employees were evacuated and a 500-foot radius was established around the perimeter of the post office.

The recipient of the package, a local taxidermist, was called to retrieve the package and the post office re-opened. Inside, the skunk's odor still lingered in the air.

Note to self: Re-think plan to mail dead possum to cousin in Alabama.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Quotable Quote...

More ministry isn't better. Better ministry is better. What can your church be the very best at? In order to reach people that no one is reaching, you'll have to do things that no one else is doing. And to do that, you can't do what everyone else is doing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Favorite Eldest Daughter...

Today is the birthday of favorite eldest daughter, Katie Lea. This beautiful young woman made her grand entrance into the world-- very much on her own timetable-- 24 years ago. She was inquisitive from the moment she popped into the delivery room... and into the life of her mom and me. Life with Katie Lea is never dull!

My two precious daughters are a sweet gift from God... and they daily remind me that I am a most blessed daddy.

Happy birthday, Kitten!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Perfect Mattress For Dreaming...

This clip is too cool...

This is just like my sweet Susan when she climbs into bed!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Encouraged Me...

Since the beginning a few weeks ago of the winter semester, I have had the privilege of continuing a mentoring relationship with four university students who are leaders in SoHills' Campus ministry. We meet at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays at one of my favorite hangouts, Peet's/Sharky's Burritos.

As the five of us sat around our table the last two Mondays, we've had repeated drive-by encounters with Tyrone, a mentally challenged young man who's spending time in a wheelchair while recovering from a broken foot. Actually, just about everyone in Peet's/Sharky's seems to have had repeated encounters with Tyrone, as he wheeled himself from one table or booth to the next... over and over again.

In the midst of a crowd of mostly university students, Tyrone interrupted conversations, talked too loud, and when his CD player's batteries ran down... he requested rather strongly that someone buy him new batteries. And not once over the course of those two Monday afternoons, which merged into evening dinners with my Susan, did I witness anyone being unkind to Tyrone.

No one told him to get lost, buzz off, or scram. Not a single person mocked him or made fun of him. Sure... a couple of people seemed a little uncomfortable with Tyrone's uninhibited straightforwardness, but no one was mean to him.

We've heard a lot lately about hope. Well, I've spotted hope on display among the tables and booths at Peet's/Sharky's. I've witnessed kindness poured generously into the life of one of the "least of these." I've seen Jesus in the flesh at a place that serves coffee and burritos... and Tyrone has seen Jesus there, too.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How More Information Leads To Less Knowledge...

In an article in the current issue of Wired titled "Manufacturing Confusion," Clive Thomson makes this observation: "After years of celebrating the information revolution, we need to focus on the countervailing force: The disinformation revolution."

In reference to the Internet, Thomson states, "People graze all day on information tailored to their existing world-view. And when bloggers and talking heads actually engage in debate, it often consists of pelting one another with mutually contradictory studies they've Googled."

Thomson concludes the article this way: "The most important thing these days might just be knowing what we know."

So... do you feel the information you have access to is making you more, or less, knowledgeable?