Monday, December 29, 2008


We've had a family tradition for about 10 years.  We see a movie either Christmas eve, or Christmas day; preferably if it is opening night too...  

This year we took the boys to see Valkyrie staring Tom Cruise.  It was well worth seeing.

There were three main themes that made this movie:
#1. If good people do nothing, evil wins...
#2. Good people need other good people to motivate them to action.
#3.  Self-sacrifice for the good of others is the most noble of all moral actions...

Cruise's character is an officer in the German army during WWII.  He recognizes that Hitler doesn't represent the Germany he loves, and that the world will judge Germany through the view of Hitler...  Cruise joins in with a conspiracy group that is supposed to attempt to assassinate Hitler, but they all have cold feet.  Cruise ends up becoming the mover and shaker in the group.

(Warning, plot spoiler about to happen...)
The end of the of the movie is predicable.  That doesn't ruin a thing though.  Though you see the end is in sight, you won't be disappointed in the movie.
Cruise who exhibits spiritual tendencies throughout the movie; wears a golden Cross, images of Crucifixes in the background, awesome family man, ect.
In the end, Cruise faces a firing squad, he pays the ultimate price doing what he knows is the right thing.  And he has no regrets.  Bold.  Brave.  Inspiring.

I highly recommend that if you do see the movie, you look for the many redemptive themes.  

There are several great lessons in the movie.  There are some intense war violence scenes.  One other warning, there is one use of the "F" word, and a smattering of other words.   

Friday, December 19, 2008

Faster than ever:

2008 was the fastest year ever!  I know the older we get, the less of a % each year composes, so our point of reference would naturally have each year's length decrees, relatively speaking. 

Still, this year flew by.  For us, our family, our congregation, our friends, not only was this year incredibly fast, it carried an immense amount of emotionally charged changes, and overwhelming challenges.  

Our family faced health issues we've never expected or felt prepared for.  As far back as February we began with Klay needing to visit neurologist and cardiologists, and now he's on penicillin until he's an adult...  We've had ER visits with Jacob over football injuries...  I had my fair share of doctor's office visits too, and the list goes on.  

Drew moved to Arkansas to pursue the love of his life, proposed, thankfully Laura accepted :-) and now they are engaged...

Zach is in Elizbethton.  More to come on that, another day.

As a congregation, we've had a time of transition that has yet to be completely fulfilled or understood...

So... I guess I'll remember 2008 for years to come.  
Some of it with a smile; other parts of it with a limp. 


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sunday nights:

For about the last two years I preached through the book of Acts on Sunday nights.  Due to the climate and the needs at our Church, I then had a series on the "one another" passages.  I like that series, and used a format more along a class setting, dialogue, back & forth participation.

Well, now I'm preaching through Romans on Sunday nights.  I'm taking it a paragraph or two at a time.  It's Thursday afternoon and as I work through the text I picked for this week (2:12-16) I'm not sure what I should do.  These few verses are loaded!  Paul raises this question once again: what about those who have never heard the Gospel.  No, he didn't ask it that way...  read the passage though, you'll see what I mean.  I'm not sure I want to take that kind of direction and raise those questions and address them as of now.  I want to focus on what seems like a clear point in 2:13: it's not those who listen to the Law, it's those who obey it that God justifies...   


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well, it looks like my blog is not a robot for spamming after all!  Thankful the Orange arrow of doom has been removed.  Sorry to everyone who attempted to sign up for lifegroups but were thrown off by the Orange warning google had on the blog.  Kyle figured it was generated because of the survey form we are using for the lifegroup sign ups.

On another note... I can't help but say something about the Governor of Illinois.  Well, maybe I can help saying too much though.  If you haven't heard, he tried to sell the open senate seat vacated by Obama.  And, now the Governor is under arrest.  IT comes as no surprise that the political corruption spawned in Chicago is in trouble...  I guess it's more surprising we don't hear about more...


Thursday, December 4, 2008


Last week we traveled to Chicago to enjoy Thanksgiving with Tammy's family.  My biggest goal in getting back to Chicago is usually to make it into a Portillos for an Italian beef/sausage combo...  We had a good time, and I enjoy hanging out with Tammy's folks.  God blessed us with great & safe travels.

The 1/2 way point for our trip up north is Cincinnati.  My grandmother who lives in a nursing home is just outside of Cincinnati.  We visited with her on the way up to Chicago, and then again on our way home.  For the 1st time in my life I experienced what it is to have a loved one not recognize you.  I was choked up for a minute or two.  Funny; she recognized Tammy immediately...  It took her at least 15 minutes before she finally recognized me...

For the first time in my adult life, also, I wanted to sit down with my grandmother and ask her all those questions, the ones like, how did you meet my grandfather?  Where did you go to school?  What was life like when...  all those questions.  

Here's the irony: When I was younger and didn't care enough or know enough to ask those questions she could've answered them...  Now, now that I'm finally interested, or should I say old enough to where this matters to me... she can't answer, she can't remember...   When we could've had this conversation I was too busy, too distracted, too unconcerned.  Now that I want to know my grandmother's history, know more of our family's background (and with a name like Cottongim, who couldn't use some help there...) it's too late to have that conversation with her.  My timing... hmmm.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

My grandma:

On our way to Tammy's folks for Thanksgiving, we stopped off at the Creation museum.  I've wanted to go there for nearly 10 years.  I had received brochures for it before they even broke ground.  It was fairly extensive and the the kids seemed to enjoy it.  Klay said he liked it a lot more than he thought would when we told him we were going there...

After the Creation museum, we went to see my Grandma who just turned 89 Saturday.  I haven't seen her in about three years.  We went into the nursing home where she lives in Florance KY, and asked where we could find her.  She was in the dining room eating dinner.

Well, she is getting older.  She recognized  Tammy.  Said she had a picture of her.  But, she wanted to know who I was....  That was a little tough.  Maybe I've been gone too long.   We had a great visit, even though my grandma kept looking sideways at me every so often trying to figure out who I was.   Eventually it appeared she recognized me.  She was really thankful for the visit.  I really enjoyed it.

The awkwardness of not being recognized by someone you really love is hard to describe.  I can't say I've ever experienced that before....  It was difficult emotionally.  I was rather sad at first.  It also made me think of my own future.  What it must be like to be in the twilight years of life, and not be able to remember names and faces.   I guess there's no way to really prepare for that.  It seems somewhat inevitable.  I hope my grandkids will do a better job of visiting me more frequently that I've done so far :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Looking forward to Drew's visit:

Drew has plans to come home for Christmas.  Don't think it passed me by that he chose to visit at Christmas over Thanksgiving...  Drew has contacted the Starbucks here to get a few hours of work in while he's in town; very mature if you ask me.  

Well, yesterday Tammy and I stopped in the Kingsport Starbucks to get a cup of coffee, and we talked with one of Drew's close friends and co-workers.  The friend, by the way, is an atheist.  I know Drew has had good/deep talks with him, and I've tried to make a point of contact with him, talking about books and such.  Yesterday it stuck me: we usually don't have many friends that are atheists, in our circles.  Now before you go down the path that asks how can we win souls if don't befriend atheists, hear me out.

I have been blessed to baptize dozens of people.  I have studied with even more.  But, it's hard to even think of a time when the people I've studied with, weren't at least a little bit faith-friendly.  It's like, they know there's a God out there somewhere but need some help finding Him.  OR, they had a grandparent that took them to Church a long time ago.  Or, even if they didn't grow up in a home where congregational life was valued, they at least could entertain the idea that God existed.  

I guess what I'm trying to say is I've spent plenty of time around non-believers, or un-believers... but how often have I befriended an atheist; one who doesn't entertain there might be a God out there...  My eyes were opened to the difference between  non-believer and an atheist, and I'm concluding that they are not the same thing.  You think I might be confusing agnosticism and skepticism with a lack of faith?  No, it's not that either.  You can be a person who is not a believer out of plan laziness, or cynicism, or you just want to hold on doing life your way....  Again, I see a new distinction in the atheist and those who are open to build a faith.   

As I thought about the friendship Drew has with his co-worker, and the fledgling friendship I'm working on with him, I felt a weird rewarding sensation.  I don't know where it will go with Drew's friend (I hope Drew can water some seeds over Christmas break), but it was refreshing to think through the implications...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not sure why?

Ha, I can't believe I'm flagged here as a spam robot blog :-)
Hopefully this will get resolved this week???
I may need some help from Kyle.  I requested a review from the good folks who run these.
Needles to say, I'll be interested in how this came about...

Until then, please refer to the Nov 18th posting if you are looking to sign up for lifegroups...  And beware of the spam-blogging-robots....


Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting started, again:

It goes without saying, launching a new blog is awkward.  It's about like taking your own picture with a digital camera...  You feel kind of dorky.  

I want to get the new blog going before we begin our new season of lifegroups (small groups) and set a different tone for the blog than I had last year.  Yes, I want to utilize this space for updates on the small group ministry, include weekly outlines ext..  But, I hope to expand this blog beyond those basics.

I'll probably do a lot of "out-loud" thinking here.  Stuff that is not typical "bulletin article" material.  Ideas and reflections that might be personal at times, and other times simply an observation on life and ministry and culture that I think is worth sharing....

So... this will be the place for lifegroup leaders to find the weekly outlines... and a place to overhear some of the ramblings of mine...