God’s Faithfulness for 28 Years

November 12 marks the 28th anniversary of the founding of Eastridge Community Church. This morning I shared about the anniversary on the Covington Campus as part of the offering thought. Here’s what I shared:

Twenty-eight years ago this very morning, a group of about seven families stepped out in faith with the goal of starting a Bible-believing church unlike anything Newton County had ever seen. That first Sunday, we met at the home of our founding pastor, Rob Raynor. We sang some worship songs together, took Communion out of Dixie cups, and had a devotion, and then some of us got stuck watching the kids while the adults made some decisions about what we were going to be.

After our first service that day, my grandparents drove down from Marietta, where they had been in Sunday School and a service at their own church, and met us there at the Raynors’ house. They gave us the gift of our first Communion tray and some money to help start the church.

My grandparents, who would later move to Covington and become ministry partners here at Eastridge, were among the first in an unbroken line of faithful giving to support God’s kingdom through Eastridge Community Church.

Since November 1989:

  • We have opened two campuses on the east and south sides of Newton County.
  • We started a campus at Lake Oconee that spun off into a distinct church with two campuses of its own.
  • We have a Spanish-speaking ministry that is coming soon.
  • We have raised three sets of missionaries from this congregation and supported many others. Our global outreach stretches into Poland, Peru, India, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Honduras.
  • College students in Washington, DC who will be among the next generation of movers and shakers on the world stage will do so with the foundation of faith in Jesus.
  • Babies have been saved from abortion, the homeless have been given a second chance, and the chains of addiction and hurt have been broken.
  • Countless people have met Jesus through Sunday mornings, Thursday nights, children and student ministry, Trunk or Treats, Spring Flings, Christmas Eve services, and so many other venues.

All of this is possible because the Eastridge family gives so faithfully. Because you give, God uses us to bring hope and life change through Jesus Christ to this county and beyond.

I wish those of us who were there that first Sunday morning 28 years ago could thank all of you personally for giving. On behalf of everyone who stepped out in faith in 1989, thank you.

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From The Resurgent: California Woman with Cystic Fibrosis Shows How to Truly Live with a Terminal Illness

Cystic fibrosis is a terrible disease that robs children and young adults of their ability to breathe. I watched my cousin Meagan struggle with breathing treatments and feeding tubes while still doing her best to maintain a normal life before she lost her battle with CF 21 years ago.

So when I read the story of Claire Wineland, a 20-year-old from California who is facing CF with an incredible attitude and a measure of wisdom beyond her years, it resonated with me.

Continue reading at The Resurgent

My 2015 In Review

I don’t know about you, but I can’t figure out where 2015 has gone. It’s been an eventful year, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t seem like it was terribly long ago that I was ringing in the new year with friends.

This year has seen its share of ups and downs, excitement and difficulty, elation and frustration. But all in all, it’s been a great one! I’ve witnessed some amazing television (Bloodline, Quantico), seen a few incredible movies (Tomorrowland, SPECTRE, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and immersed myself in some wonderful music (Zac Brown Band, Adele, so many great songs from Nashville – and Liz Vice sounds even cooler on vinyl!).

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

My dad kicked lung cancer’s butt!

I’ll never forget spending the second weekend of the year at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta while my dad had a portion of his lung removed. The people there were nice, and the folks at Fisher House were wonderful and welcoming to my mom and me.

Cancer is always a scary thing to hear, but my dad handled the surgery and every treatment with a good attitude and a sense of humor. He was able to celebrate his 70th birthday as a healthy man! Glory to God for the healing!

We survived an office move.

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During the spring and much of the summer, the Eastridge staff spent our days in temporary digs. We finally got rid of the trailers we’d been leasing for a decade and made plans to renovate the house on the church property as offices.

The original estimate was about three weeks’ renovation. It took three months. Somehow we were able to keep the church running – including VBS – with no conflict while operating on just the basic office needs in spaces that served as classrooms on Sundays and Thursday nights. It’s a testimony to the amazing people I work and serve with.

I got to go to Walt Disney World three times.

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Only people who share my family’s Disney obsession will be impressed, I know. I’ve had a couple of years where I’ve been able to go to Disney World twice, but this was the first time I went three times. We took a family trip for Spring Break (awful crowds – never again) where my mom fell and broke her wrist. I took a “grown ups” trip with a friend of mine in September, and we took another family long weekend trip in November to experience some of the Christmas fun. I hope I’ll have more three-trip years.

Not only did I get to see Liz Vice live, but I got to have great conversation with her, AND I got to help her out.

If you know much about me at all, you know that for a little over a year I’ve fallen head over heels for Portland-based Christian soul singer Liz Vice. Her retro take on music is refreshing, her voice is second to none, and she just happens to sing songs about Jesus!

She came to Atlanta in October, and I went in with some friends to get a table at Eddie’s Attic to hear her in person. She communicated on Facebook that her band needed a drum kit for the show, and Eastridge let us loan her the Jackson Lake Campus drums for the night, which meant extra time to hang with her before and after the show.

Liz is a down-to-earth lady with a huge voice, and I think she’ll go places.

I became a published author!

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I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been aware of what writing is, though I’ve only had the opportunity to write professionally for about five years. As an outgrowth of these writing opportunities, I received the challenge from my colleagues and editors to write a book.

The result, Football, Faith, & Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter To The South, was a dream come true, though maybe one of those dreams I never thought would be real. I wouldn’t trade the process for the world: the writing, the editing, the promotional fun, the autograph signing. (And I still have plenty of autograph cards available; if you didn’t get yours, hit me up!)

I owe so much of it to my friends, (former) editors, and writing champions David Swindle and Hannah Sternberg – and to the incomparable Lisa De Pasquale for writing the intro.

That’s my year! Here’s to a year unlike any other, and an even better 2016!

My Heritage of Faithfulness

Today is my grandfather’s 91st birthday. He – my mom’s dad – is one of my handful of earthly heroes. I’ve often said that he played a pretty sizable role in my beliefs and thoughts – particularly politically and as a lover of the South. But over the last few months, I realize another influence he has had on me.

Paw Paw has spent many years as a leader in the church. He was a deacon, and elder, a Sunday School teacher, and so many other ways. In his last few years in Covington during my first go-round on staff at Eastridge, he even volunteered in the office helping me out. He was an amazing servant leader; in fact, he was the kind of leader I want to be. My grandmother was a longtime volunteer at church as well.

Today is also Grandparents’ Day, which is one of those holidays I don’t think about until the actual day arrives. I’m reminded of my other grandfather, who was a baptist preacher. Naturally, I view him as part of my spiritual heritage too.

And then there are my parents. They made sure we kids were in church to the point where it was just what we did, part of the fabric of our family life. I remember them serving in different ways, especially after we started Eastridge.

I’ve done some genealogical research, and one branch of the family tree traces back to the second pastor of the oldest church in New York City. And, if it can be taken as fact, another branch runs back to the Biblical figure Joseph of Arimathea. So, the way I see it, my heritage of faithfulness stretches back a long way!

Today, I have the privilege of being a part of the staff of a growing church filled with people with tremendous hearts to serve and grow in their faith – including my family. I serve on a team of volunteers who give their all to their ministry. I’m humbled to see God at work in so many people around me and to be a part of what He is doing in this community and throughout the world.

Of course, God is the Source of all good things, including in my life, but I also have to give credit to this heritage of faithfulness that I can look back on before me. Without the faithful people who came before me, I don’t know where I’d be today.

From PJ Lifestyle: Grieving Mother Uses Facebook To Scatter Her Son’s Ashes Around the World

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On a picture perfect day in April 2010, 20-year-old Air Force veteran C.J. Twomey killed himself after an argument with his mom, Hallie.

Twomey regrets rolling her eyes at her son instead of hugging him as he stormed out of their home after an argument. A few minutes later, C.J. shot himself in his car in front of the home, she said.

Continue reading at PJ Lifestyle

From PJ Lifestyle: “Tips For Jesus” Sets The Bar High For Generosity

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Lately, we’ve heard too many stories of chintzy tippers. There’s the story of the Alabama fan who refused to tip his Auburn-fan server after Auburn’s surprise upset of the Crimson Tide on November 30. A server in New Jersey garnered a ton of media attention when she claimed a family refused to tip her because of her homosexual lifestyle – several people have cast doubt on her claims. So, hearing about an anonymous bar and restaurant patron who leaves massive tips all over the country and posts them on his Instagram account under the moniker “Tips For Jesus” encourages me.

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From PJLifestyle: Roy Disney, The Not-So-Silent Partner

This statue of Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse sits in Main Street U.S.A.'s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney gets the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the Disney company in its first four decades, and deservedly so. But many people don’t realize the influence that Walt’s older brother Roy had on the company. Roy served as Walt’s business partner and handled the business decisions for the company from its founding  until his passing in 1971. Bob Thomas, author of Walt Disney: An American Original, published Building A Company: Roy O. Disney And The Creation Of An Entertainment Empire. Thomas’ biography of Roy tells his story like no one else can.

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My Latest At PJLifestyle: 5 Disney Films That Define Key Family Values

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Family – or at least the idea of it – lies at the core of most people’s existence. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God designed the family to be the catalyst for spiritual, physical, and emotional growth. The Biblical idea of family is built around mutual respect and well-defined roles.

Walt Disney lived these values too. He loved his daughters and grandchildren, and his ultimate goal was to provide quality entertainment for families. He designed his theme parks to be fun for parents as well as children, and his films and television series contained elements that the entire family could enjoy.

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What I’m Looking Forward To The Most About Our Trip To Disney World (In Honor Of 100 Days Until We Go)

There’s always plenty of things to look forward to on a trip to Walt Disney World, but for some reason I’m more excited about this trip than the last few. In honor of 100 days until we go, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to the most…

The World in all its Christmas finery –Disney World at Christmas is even more special than at any other time of the year. We’re going the week before Thanksgiving, and the parks and resorts will already be decorated. We have our tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (a must-do during the holidays), and we’ll get to enjoy the perks at that event in the Magic Kingdom. The decorations, the music, and the special holiday fun make WDW at Christmas that much more magical.

The new Star Tours — I’m not so jazzed about the 3D, but I can’t wait to see the new adventures, new story, and new technology that goes with this attraction. It should be really cool!

A meal at Le Cellier — The last time we went around Christmas (in 2008), we had a meal at Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse in Epcot’s World Showcase. It was without exaggeration the best WDW meal I’ve had, and it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. So needless to say, I’m ready to go back. I particularly can’t wait for my brother, the grilling expert, to see Le Cellier for himself.

Seeing Disney World through my nieces’ eyes — Of course, this has been one of the best things about going to WDW the last few years, but this year will be even sweeter, because they’re growing up and the experiences are a little different for each of them. At six, Kenzie’s getting bigger and able to ride more and more of the thrill rides, so we’ll have extra fun. Now that she’s three, Kayla is getting tall enough to start riding the fun stuff. AT two, Hadley’s at the age where she’ll start remembering the experiences. Kenzie is the only one who has been during the Christmas season, so it’ll be cool to see how the other two react to what they see. Needless to say, it’s gonna be a great trip, if for no other reason than watching the girls.

The Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort — For part of the trip, we’re staying at our usual resort, Pop Century, but we’re also spending a couple of nights in the Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach. The pirate decor will add a little bit of extra fun to the trip, and Kenzie is particularly excited about it.

Any trip we take to Walt Disney World is fun, but this one is going to be extra special, for the reasons listed above…and for so much more.

Nostalgia Trip

Yesterday my mom and I took a trip to Marietta and Smyrna, the area where she grew up and where I spent my first few years. Since we moved to Covington when I was four or five, my memories of living there are fairly vague, yet I have memories of going back to visit and seeing places around the area. It was astounding just how much everything changes.

We started out going by the apartment complex where we lived when I was a toddler. It didn’t look

My Great-Grandmother's old house

nearly like what’s in my  memory. The buildings looked similar, but there were far more trees than I ever remembered, and my mom said they built some new buildings where the old parking lots were. I wish we’d taken pictures there.

Next we visited my great grandmother’s old house in Smyrna. It used to be a tiny house, and I have years and years of fond memories there. We were in for a shock when we saw how much the new owners have changed the house and added on to it. It looks like they may have nearly doubled the square footage! It was a beautiful house, but it just wasn’t the same house that we loved so much. We joked that they messed the house up.

The first house I lived in as a baby

After that we visited the first house my parents owned, where we lived when I was a baby. Obviously I have no memory of the house, and even the pictures I’ve seen of it didn’t quite look the same. It was fun to see the first house where I lived.

Finally, we drove by the house where my mom grew up. She has shared the memories of that house and the years they spent there for as long as I can remember, so it was nice to get to see the place she has talked about for so long. It was almost exactly what I imagined.

It was nice to get to see all these old places,

The house where my mom grew up

and I’m glad we took the time to go. Even though things have changed (and we shouldn’t be surprised at that), there’s something comforting about seeing familiar areas. I’d love the chance to do something like that again.