June 2012


Some of you read the title of this post and thought, “A lot depends on the size of your bite.” This is true! Some people can handle chewing & swallowing a bigger bite than others. I have eosinophilic esophagitis (EE), so my bites usually have to be smaller than what most adults can handle. Now I could tell you about the details of how my gastroenterologists/GI specialists came to that conclusion, but that’s another story for another day. Suffice it to say that nine years ago, when I had a chunk of steak lodged in my esophagus, I didn’t know about this syndrome (as many of you reading this have never heard of it), much less that I would one day be diagnosed with it.

It was Thursday and was premium night at the Asbury College cafeteria. That meant that instead of the usual array of “meh” choices for your entree, they offered a more elegant selection, which included grilled steak on one particular evening. As fate would allow it, this particular premium night was the night before Senior Chapel, where I had been asked to share a testimony about my life and/or my time at Asbury as my class was getting prepared to graduate. Being the night before Senior Chapel, those involved in the service the next day were to go to rehearsal in Hughes Auditorium, where chapel is held. Because of the unfortunate circumstance that occurred in the cafeteria that evening, I was unable to make it to rehearsal. Instead I spent most of the rest of the evening in the ER at a hospital in Lexington.

I tried to swallow the bite of steak after not chewing enough. The food met resistance. I grabbed my glass of coke and tried to wash it down with liquid. The trouble with a food impaction is, if the liquid you try to force it down with doesn’t do the job, that liquid comes back up. So my tray started getting fizzy from the coke. I wasn’t choking, the food was just stuck on its way to my stomach. So although the cafeteria manager knew the Heimlich maneuver, that wasn’t going to help and in fact may have caused worse damage had he tried to do so. He sent me to the Health Clinic. They didn’t have the necessary means of assisting me, so they gave me strict instructions not to lay down but to go to the Emergency Room. Carrie (we were engaged at the time) took me to the ER. We waited in the waiting room…waited…waited…waited… After about an hour and a half (on top of the hour it had taken to go to the Health Clinic, see what they could/couldn’t do and then drive to the ER), I finally said to the folks at the front desk, “It is really hard having food stuck in your esophagus for over 2 hours, not being able to swallow any sort of liquid, including my own saliva. Can I please be seen soon?” They called me back a couple of minutes later.

Then I had to prove I was having this problem. They gave me 3 cups of water to attempt to drink. And the same thing happened with that that had happened in the cafeteria with my coke. The water came back up. So they paged the GI doc to come in and do a scope to push the food down through an endoscopy. At that point, the doctor at the ER told me to lay down. “Are you sure, because my Health Clinic said not to.” “Yes, I’m sure.” So I laid down, and within a minute I felt the food go down. [Note: this activity did not do the trick the next couple of times I had food impactions…that’s when I knew there was an underlying problem that needed to be addressed.] I told him I felt that. Being skeptical of this, he asked me to attempt to swallow three more glasses of water, which I did effortlessly. So they called the GI doc to return home since there was no need to perform the scope.

A few minutes later, the nurse came back with specific written instructions on how best to proceed, especially when consuming food. On the sheet in bold print were these words: “When eating, cut your food, especially meats, up into SMALL pieces and CHEW THOROUGHLY before attempting to swallow.

When God called Abram (Gen. 12), God said, “Go…to a land I will show you.”  In the creation account in Genesis 1, God had paused at the end of each day to enjoy & celebrate the work that had been done. “God saw how good it was”(CEB) – Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31. At the beginning of his venture in following God’s call, Abram stopped at various times, celebrated and worshiped the God who had revealed himself to Abram by building an altar unto the Lord (Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18). If eating a meal is anything like walking a journey, then we ought to take time to enjoy each of the courses and not rush through them. Trying to eat a steak in one bite will not only land you in the ER, it will also rob you of the joy of enjoying each savory bite.

Some speak of biting off more than one can chew. I had bitten off more than I could swallow. The same principle applies. But as grace would have it, I got to go back to campus that evening with no scars and only an embarrassing story to share. Ever since, I’ve tried not to eat the whole steak at once (literally & metaphorically). I must confess that I have failed a time or two though.

Oh and I did get to speak in chapel the next day. I guess they trusted that I wasn’t really going to choke. ;^)

It has been a busy week in finalizing the packing, loading the truck, trailer, and other vehicles of the caravan, moving, unloading all our boxes into the house (with some TREMENDOUS help from the good folks at Liberty & Post Oak Churches, I must say), getting acquainted with the town & area (still much left to do in that regard) and slowly, but surely, unpacking all the boxes and putting everything in the place that my awesome wife has so tediously organized! (Here’s a plug for her blog, which you’ll want to keep an eye on in the next few weeks as she provides updates on the move and how she has decorated the parsonage, etc.)

Today was really the first full day on our own as both Carrie’s parents and my own were visiting and helping us unpack many boxes and put together many things. When my parents were in town yesterday, I took them to the churches where they took some pictures. I thought I would share them with you so you can see what the churches look like and notice that they’ve already got the signage updated.

Post Oak United Methodist Church

New sign at Post Oak UMC

Liberty United Methodist Church

(more…)

If anyone I’ve ever known fit the bill for what John Wesley described as entire sanctification, it would be my Papaw (pronounced “paw paw”). Papaw loved the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength and loved his neighbor as himself. Those who will have the burden of hearing me preach will doubtless hear many examples of how important this man has been in my life. Papaw died in 1998 and I miss him still.

Papaw and I in front of my hometown church, Oscar UMC. This picture actually made it to the cover of the Lexington Herald Leader one day, but that’s another story for another time. 🙂

One of Papaw’s spiritual gifts was that of encouragement. Being a recipient of God’s grace throughout his life and of generous support from his community during a difficult financial time, I witnessed Papaw give public and private support to others in a variety of ways in their time of need. One way his gift of encouragement manifested itself was in his craft of writing letters by hand. I was the recipient of such a letter after announcing to my family my intentions to enter into the ministry. I had just turned seventeen years old and declared these intentions at our usual family dinner (or you may call it lunch, depending on which sub-culture you live in) after church one Sunday. Later that week, I received a letter in the mail, which is pictured at the bottom of this post (in the caption is the letter’s contents, in case it’s illegible to you). This letter was the last one I received from him before his death later that year.

I share this letter with you because I have found myself opening this letter time and time again, not only for the sake of the fact that it was his last letter to me, but because of its rich and rather prophetic content. His words have proven true as my vocational journey has taken its interesting yet subtle twists and turns these last fourteen years. In particular, his affirming words that God would lead as I would pursue the area of service to which God was calling me and the final statement reminding of God’s presence with me come what may, have become etched in my memory. I think you might find his words could be applied more broadly as well, so I hope these words will encourage you!

To Jeffrey Wed PM Jan 14 1998 Dear Grandson,
Words cannot express my happiness, my appreciation for your announcement Sunday of your feeling and hearing God’s call for a deeper commitment to serve Him.
We do not think it too important for you to decide immediately the area of service you are to pursue – God will lead. But we do hereby pledge our full support, whatever it may be.
Sue & I will continue to pray for you daily (just as we have for many years). And not only for you but for each of our dear children and other grandchildren.
Just remember, always, that nothing can happen to you – no setback, no disappointment, no temptation – nothing that you & God together can not handle.
We love you.
Best regards,
Papaw

As I officially embark upon pastoral ministry in the next couple of weeks, I decided to launch this site as a means to promote and share with you what has been and will continue to be shared with me (see tagline at the top referring to 1 Corinthians 11.23).

I am in awestruck wonder at the grace that God has given through Christ to me in my life. But because God’s grace is a gift, then I am not the proprietor of it. I am beckoned and charged to share that grace generously with those with whom I come in contact throughout my life. That’s what the theme centered upon at the Memphis Annual Conference this year, which concluded yesterday in Jackson, TN: “Extravagant Generosity” (see image below).

Image

At the conclusion of the conference, Bishop Chamness declared the fixing of appointments for the 2012-13 year, which means that my charge to pastor Liberty & Post Oak United Methodist Churches in Camden, Tennessee for at least the next year (and hopefully longer) is finalized. Immediately before the sending forth, those of us who have been appointed to pastor throughout the Conference covenanted together in declaring our vow to fulfill the call laid upon us. In this covenant we recited the Wesley Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.

I’ve said this covenant prayer in multiple services before this Annual Conference, but yesterday it took on a profound new meaning and I had a six hour drive home from Jackson to Nicholasville (where I’ll be residing for 12 more days before we move to Camden on June 19) to reflect upon the significance of this covenant and (God knows) where it will lead me. The first line sums it all up and brings our hearts and minds to the realization that we are not the proprietors or rightful owners of anything, including and especially the ministry to which we have been called. I am no longer my own, but thine.

We are, at most and at best, stewards, even of the grace that God gave in rescuing us from sin & death. Whatever we receive from the hand of our loving and almighty God, it is in order to give or pass on, not to hold up for ourselves. If you read the entire context around 1 Corinthians 11.23 (go back to verse 17 and read through verse 34, or read it here), you’ll see that stewardship and sharing is at the heart of the community meal we know as the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. St. Paul was aware of the lack of stewardship in the Corinthian church such that folks were hoarding up, consuming all the bread and drinking all the wine, leaving some without. Paul encouraged them (and the Spirit through Paul’s words encourages us) to follow his own lead by passing on what was passed to him. I am no longer my own, but thine.

It is true that I cannot share what I have not received. But if I do not share what I have received, then I will only bring judgment upon myself and others will starve. God, be merciful unto me where I have failed in this and enable me to give generously the gifts and grace you have entrusted to me! I am no longer my own, but thine.