Motownphilly Back Again

I don’t know about you, but there are certain songs and albums that take me back to a specific time and place.

For me, one example is Boyz II Men’s Motownphilly, which takes me back to my freshman year at the Deusner 7 (or maybe it was 5) dorm room at Union University in the fine city of Jackson, Tennessee, where (I might add) you can’t go 50 feet without running into either a college or a church.

I’m not the world’s biggest hip-hop fan as a general rule. Not that I have anything against that genre. I just never really have gotten into it.

But there’s something about hearing songs like “End of the Road” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” that make me nostalgic.

Sadly, that dorm building is no longer there. It got taken out by the tornadoes that swept through the campus back in 2008. In fact, the last time I was there, I didn’t recognize most of the campus (or the people).

I do remember the first time I set foot on the campus of Union, it was like God was telling me, “This is where I want you. This is your place for the next four years.” It felt like home and the peace I felt was undeniable.

There were some scary and stressful moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to stay due to finances, but thanks to Stafford loans I managed to graduate four years later.

I made some great friends and great memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Sometimes, I think I’d like to get together with some fellow Unionites and reminisce about those days and catch up with what everybody’s doing these days.

I think that should happen soon, preferably in the Nashville area. I might even bring my Boyz II Men CD with me.



More Snow, Snow, Snow

“‘Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.’
    This is God’s Message:
‘If your sins are blood-red,
    they’ll be snow-white.
If they’re red like crimson,
    they’ll be like wool.'” (Isaiah 1:18-19)

Well, apparently Middle Tennessee is catching up on all that snow we were supposed to get this year (according to the famed Farmer’s Almanac). Ok, it’s still not that much by New York or Boston standards, but snow is snow. And Nashvillians still can’t drive in it. Not that they can drive in any other kind of weather.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I can remember back when it used to REALLY snow. There was that one time when I was a freshman at Briarcrest High School when Memphis got 13 inches of snow. 13 inches! Again, that’s a light dusting for places like Minneapolis, but for us folks down South, that’s a big deal.

I also remember the Great Ice Storm of ’94 when I was a student at Union University and people lost power for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, the campus shared the same power grid as the nearby hospital, so we only went without power for a few hours.

This time, it’s nowhere near as dramatic as that. Still, even with only an inch or two on the ground, it is rather pretty. Even at night, there’s still enough light reflecting off the snow for me to be able to see out the front door when ordinarily I wouldn’t be able to see much beyond the glow of the streetlights.

I’m thinking how snow covers up so much ugliness and makes everything beautiful again. I wonder if that was what Isaiah was thinking when he penned the words about how “though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

I’m hoping with all this Arctic (for Middle Tennessee) weather we’ve been having that there will be less bugs next summer. I wonder what the Farmer’s Almanac has to say about that?


Being on the Ground Floor


Today at my church, there were few–if any– empty chairs. That might not sound like much until you consider that this church has only officially been in existence since July of last year (with the official launch in September).

I’ve always said that I wanted to be on the ground floor of a church plant and here I am.

My role may not be a big one, but I am playing a small part. I am a greeter on most Sunday mornings and once every month or so I run the graphics, which includes song lyrics and other slides related to the Sunday morning service.

I enjoy it. I really love the fact that we as the local body of Christ are making an impact on the neighborhood in which God has placed us. People driving by can’t help but notice the sign that reads “The Church at Avenue South– a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist Church.” Jesus has moved into the neighborhood and we are His visible body here on earth.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the year ahead. I pray that we won’t be content to maintain status quo but instead seek ways to think outside that proverbial box and truly become all things to all people, just as Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

In fact, my prayer is for all the churches in Nashville to do the same. I really do hope that we can get away from the competitive spirit and learn to work together as the Church. After all, Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and His Father are one.

More than that, I pray the churches in Nashville will stick to the Gospel that Paul preached, no matter what. That’s what saves people and that’s what people are dying to hear, both figuratively and literally.


Who Says You Can’t Go Back?


It’s been 18 years since I graduated and 8 years since I last stepped foot on the campus, but today I went back to Union University, where I spent four of the best years of my life.

I knew in my mind that things change. I prepared myself for seeing a different Union than the 1995 version that I remember so well. But even then it was still so very surreal.


Just about every building on campus was new or completely remodeled. Even the layout of the buildings was different. There were no walls around the guys and girls dorms. Maggie would not have been pleased.

It hit me that half the students on campus weren’t even born when I graduated from Union. Well, maybe 1/4. I was never very good at math.


I found a vey few familiar places. The old library smelled exactly like it did in 1995. Funny how particular smells can trigger memories. For me, nothing stimulates remembering more than a certain combination of scents.

I found my old mailbox slot (and yes, it had mail in it and no, I didn’t open it). The cafeteria still looked the same.

I walked down the same sidewalk where I once had my trusty umbrella inverted by a sudden windy downpour. I could literally see the rain heading toward me as I walked to class. I also remember leaving for an 8 am class on a frigid winter morning with my hair still wet and arriving to class with my hair literally frozen.

None of the people who made Union great were there. New people are there making new lasting memories with new friends. Who knows? 18 years from now, maybe a current student will come back to unfamiliar people and buildings in 2031?

I know I’m not the same person who wanted so desperately for people to like him and to fit in and to belong. I’m not the same person who didn’t like himself very much and couldn’t bear to look at himself in the mirror. I’m definitely not the same guy who thought no girl could ever find him attractive or ever seriously consider a dating relationship with him.

Coming back reminded me of how far I’ve come. Maybe it wasn’t so much the new buildings and people that made my visit surreal. ,
Maybe it was me seeing everything with new eyes. Whoa. That was deep. 😁


I found God’s peace and healing at Union. I made some amazing friendships with some amazing people. Some I’ve kept up with, some I’m not friends with anymore, but all of them I still am thankful for.

I remember still the feeling I had the first time I set foot on this campus. I knew without a doubt that this is where God wanted me. Today, I look back and I can see just as clearly why that was.

I remain blessed. I am still living my miracle. God is good.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

When I think of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I don’t think of when I would like dessert after a good meal. I don’t even think about when I am late for a meal and how “hungry” I feel. I think of someone who is starving to death and the lengths they will go to get food. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means more than simply wanting to in right standing with God and to please Him; it means that everything in me longs and yearns to see God glorified by my life.

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

The question is: How badly do you want God? Not how badly do you want your prayers answered or how badly do you want gifts and blessings from God, but how badly do you long for God Himself? Honestly, I seek after many other things more than I seek after God, including but not limited to approval, attention, a dating life, and spiritual experiences. Is it any wonder that these things, whether I obtain them or not, will leave me empty and hollow? Only God can fill a God-shaped hole in my heart.

The hard part is that if you love and long for God, you will love and long for fellowship and community with His people. If you don’t love and long for His people, you don’t really long for God. Jesus says, If you love me, you will love my church (and that doesn’t mean you will love a building or a campus, it means you will love God’s people). If you are pulling away from God’s people, how can you say you are drawing near to God? I know there are seasons of solitude that God calls us to, but if we have no desire to pray for and support and encourage our brothers and sisters, we really are saying we have no desire for God.

Sometimes, when someone isn’t in a place where they can seek God and God’s people, we can rally around that person and pray God’s healing and restoration for him or her. A friend of mine said sometimes when you can only give 40%, I must be the one to give the 160% to make up the difference.

What does it mean to be filled? It means overflowing beyond your capacity to receive. It means God gives you so much that it runs over in you and spills into the lives of those around you. To be filled means to have life abundantly, or life to the full, that God will give beyond anything we could ever ask or expect or hope. As John Piper says, “God will not give up the glory of being the Giver.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.