Ten years ago today, on June 4, 2007, I wrote my very first ever blog post on this website that Kipi Ward, our children’s minister at Legacy, helped me set up. It was the morning after my first sermon as the full-time preaching minister at Legacy Church of Christ, my first full-time job in congregational ministry. I can only hope my sermon that day wasn’t as boring as the blog post the next morning. In that post I expressed my desires for this website: to encourage and exhort the members of our local congregation and the Kingdom of God abroad, to update readers with what’s happening in our family, and to serve as an outlet for the sports thoughts and opinions that back up in my brain.
That was ten years ago. And I’m happy to report that the Kingdom is advancing forcefully, the kids are growing up quickly, and the Cowboys are sinking further and further into the longest and worst irrelevance drought in franchise history.
Since that Monday morning in June 2007, I’ve written 1,676 posts, read 2,471 comments, experienced two significant site crashes, and changed churches once. In those early days I experimented with different pages for sermon outlines and bulletin articles, Lord’s Supper resources, and interactive discussions about football jersey numbers. For two years I maintained a KK&C Top-20 College Football poll with a panel of voters from all over the southwest. That was back when a blog generated lots of readers and lots of comments. Every now and then a real discussion would break out, a back-and-forth conversation with five or six different parties chiming in several times throughout the thread. Those days seem pretty much gone. Long-form blogging and discussions have given way to shorter posts and comments on Facebook and even shorter content on Twitter.
Several times over the past three or four years, I’ve thought about giving this up. But I can’t. I love to write. Writing helps me articulate what I’m trying to say. It allows me to see and hear what’s going on in my head. It serves as a reliable outlet. It’s cathartic in many ways. I hope it allows people in our congregation to get to know me a little better. And, yeah, I still believe that every now and then, our mighty God uses this blog to speak to somebody who really needs to hear his loving voice.
To celebrate ten years of blogging, I want to provide you with some links to what are some of my all-time favorite posts — ten categories for ten years. If you only choose to click on one of these links, make sure it’s the last one I mention, at the bottom of this post.
Personal – This blog is written by me, from my perspective, about things I’m interested in, so, yes, this whole enterprise is very personal. But some of the posts are more personal than others. Every now and then something will happen that causes me to reflect on me. The closing down of Big Town Mall in east Dallas County last year prompted this nostalgic post recounting my childhood memories there. Jim Martin’s funeral in December 2013 compelled me to write about his giant influence on me and my family with much appreciation. And a Dallas Morning News story in 2010 about American theologian Stanley Hauerwas being from Pleasant Grove was the occasion for a blog post about my own growing up in that southeast Dallas community. That post, “Can Anything Good Come Out of Pleasant Grove?” is still generating comments, the latest just last month. More people on the internet for more of the time using more sophisticated search engines means people show up on my blog for the most random reasons. People who come here looking for P-Grove always leave a comment. And, it doesn’t get any more personal than writing a post the day after I’m given a senior discount at an Abilene restaurant. She didn’t even ask!
Preaching – I’m a preacher. A lot of this blog is about preaching — the highs and lows, the hard work and the blessed honor, the weekly triumph and failure. I’m hopeful that the posts about preaching give readers some real insight into the twisted and tortured minds of God’s bold proclaimers. And I hope it gives other preachers who might read some comfort in knowing somebody else is going through the exact same things. For a sample of these kinds of posts, you might check out “Ordained by the Community of Christ” and/or “The Sunday Sermon is Brutal.” As you might guess, these could also easily be classified as personal.
Family – I’m a husband of 27-years to an amazing woman and a father to three spectacularly wonderful daughters. And this blog is testimony to how these four ladies bless my life. A reader here never knows if he’s going to encounter an article about Carrie-Anne disrupting a Third Day concert, a play-by-play account of my trip with Whitney to New York City, a personal letter to Valerie as she leaves home for college, or the account of Carley and I waking up at 4:00am to welcome the Blue Bell trucks back to Amarillo after the listeria thing. The girls don’t always appreciate that I write so often about them. They worry about the pictures I post. My hope is that my words about them and to them will mean more later.
Cowboys – It’s in the title. I write a lot about the pro football team in Dallas. 198 of my posts have mentioned something about the Cowboys. My mantra here is that if I can’t say anything critical and mean about the Cowboys I don’t say anything at all. But regular readers are aware that I do compliment the players and the team when they deserve it. The truth is I have a complicated love-hate relationship with my hometown team: I loved them from the date of my birth until the day Jerry Wayne fired Jimmy Johnson and I’ve hated them ever since. What kind of person must you be to fire your coach after he wins back-to-back Super Bowls? What kind of person must you be to hire Barry Switzer? Here’s a post that really illustrates the love-hate nature of my feelings: the day after Jerry released Terrell Owens. It’s interesting that I thought it might be the start of some kind of turnaround. It’s interesting that I thought maybe Jerry was realizing that winning is more important than making money and headlines, that his legacy would be determined by championships and not sponsorships. It’s disturbing that it was eight years ago! And I was wrong. I wrote this post a year-and-a-half ago on the 20th anniversary of the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl appearance. And I wrote this three months ago when Jerry was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the basis of his sponsorships and money.
Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of the communion meal is a real topic of interest for me. I generally write about the multiple facets of the Lord’s Dinner that we typically neglect, the long and sordid history of the communion meal, and the need to re-imagine the way we celebrate the Eucharist in our worship assemblies. But three years ago I wrote this post about the, um…, extra “potent” grape juice we were all subjected to on a Sunday here at Central. It happens, right? Every now and then something gets messed up somewhere and the juice goes bad. And it was rank on this Sunday! You could smell it when the tray was still three pews away. And you could see it on the faces of every person in the worship center who took a sip. As soon as that service was over, one of our more clever teenagers texted me: “It was either the wine or the sermon, but one made me sleepy.” I received an email the next morning asking me if we needed to raise the traditional Church of Christ “age of accountability” to twenty-one.
Church of Christ – I am eternally grateful for the CofC tradition in which I was raised. I received the Christian faith in the Church of Christ and the Church of Christ has shaped me into the follower of Jesus I am today. I unapologetically laud the strengths of our movement: our unwavering commitment to Scripture, our weekly celebration of the Lord’s Dinner, our high view of baptism as the initiation rite into God’s Kingdom. But, as with all streams of the faith, ours also has some baggage. In 2012 Leroy Garrett wrote a short book called “What Must the Church of Christ Do To Be Saved?” in which he makes 20 suggestions for rescuing our movement from a future extinction. I engaged the book chapter-by-chapter for nearly a month: women’s roles, division, sectarianism, repentance, instrumental music, all of it. I started with this post “Confess That We Have Been Wrong” and went from there. It was a great exercise for me and it prompted important discussion among the readers. If you want to access all two dozen of these articles, search “Leroy Garrett” on this site and you’ll get the list.
Christian Unity – I believe in Christ’s prayer in John 17 for the unity of all his people; I believe that Jesus died on the cross to destroy the barriers that divide his people; I believe Christian unity is the best witness to the power of our Lord; and I believe it is God’s will that his Church work hard to come together. On May 23, 2013 Central’s elders and ministers met at Polk Street United Methodist Church with their elders and ministers and the elders and ministers from First Presbyterian and First Baptist. We prayed together for a couple of hours and began that night what would become “4 Amarillo.” I wrote this post in anticipation of that evening and this post the next morning, full of hope and enthusiasm for what God might be doing in and through our churches for the sake of the city. In the past four years, “4 Amarillo” has become a powerful force for God’s Kingdom here. I can’t tell you how privileged I feel, how blessed by God, to be in on this cooperative effort among our churches.
Christ and Culture – God’s will is that we become more like his Son, that we reflect more of his eternal glory in every part of our lives. From the beginning of time — every period of history, every era, every context, every part of the planet — God’s people have wrestled with how to be faithful in a culture that’s not. It ain’t easy. It’s swimming upstream with the wind in your face and ankle weights on your legs. But it’s our calling. This post about holy emails, written in 2010, asks questions about the nature of the emails we receive and the thought process we take or don’t take before we decided to mass forward them to others. I write about violence, cell phones, war, media, national politics, and language and try to offer reflective suggestions on how Christians are supposed to behave in ways that honor God and point to his risen Son.
Nationalism – Under the umbrella of the Christ and Culture category is the realm of nationalism: equating the Empire of the United States with the Kingdom of God, believing the two are inseparable, confusing our loyalties. The clearest and most recent example is with the current debate over the Johnson Amendment. I addressed that in this post just four months ago. For an older example, I would point you to these three posts I wrote just before the U.S. presidential election in 2008: Church As State, Holy Polis, and Church As State: A Little More. Take your time, read these in order, and pay attention to the compelling conversation in the comments, too. This little series is one of those blog discussions that just don’t seem to happen anymore.
Unexpected Random Greatness – The greatest post in the ten year history of this blog was written on February 6, 2008. That was the day after I accidentally killed Valerie’s birthday gerbil. The post is titled “R.I.P. Cookie” and it’s stinkin’ hilarious. It quotes from WKRP and includes a really funny line from a nine-year-old Carley. To this day, no other post on this site has generated as many comments. Those 35 comments include sadistic requests to knock off other people’s pets, a link to a Super Bowl ad that shows gerbils being shot out of a cannon into a brick wall, and a conciliatory rant that takes off on Allen Iverson’s famous “practice” speech. This is the gold standard of blog posts on this site. Do yourself a favor. Check it out right now.
I’m surprised that this blog, this on-line journal, this forum for sharing observations about our Father and our life with him, is already ten years old. Maybe this thing will go another ten years, maybe it won’t. Whether you’re a regular reader (Hi, mom!) or you got here accidentally because you were searching “Ted Nugent” (sorry!), thank you for reading. And, as I wrote in this space ten years ago, may our God’s will be done through this blog just as it is in heaven.