SAINTS AND NEIGHBORS

A Conversation With Special Guest:  Clark Cothern

Life is a curious thing.  You never know the next saint or neighbor you will meet.  You never know the lasting impression the person who moves in next door might make upon your life.  And that works both ways.  How will your current neighbors remember you?

Once upon a time about a couple of score ago, two young couples moved next door to each other at 1729 and 1727 W. Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas.  And though we haven’t been next door neighbors for 36 years, today’s special podcast guest Clark Cothern and I remain friends to this day.  This is a light-hearted reflection on what it means to be saints and neighbors.  It’s a beautiful day at Redemption’s Table – and we saved you a seat.

BEING PRESENT IN THE MOMENT

Staying in the moment does not come naturally to me.  My mind is constantly drifting back to special memories, or sometimes pivotal events from the past.  I see a calendar date or hear a favorite song and immediately I flip back to that season of my journey.  And if I’m not circling back, then my mind is possibly racing towards the uncertain turns and curves of the future. 

Can anybody out there relate?  Or am I the only one?

On today’s episode, I will share some key life hacks I use to keep me more present, wherever I happen to be, at any given moment.  And it all begins with how we begin our day.  We saved you a seat for this very timely, practical edition.  Pour yourself your favorite cup of coffee and join us.

(Photo by Robert Barge at Van Gogh and the Olive Groves on exhibit now at the Dallas Museum of Art.)

LYRICALLY SPEAKING – WITH JEFF GORE

A Lyrical Conversation with Special Guest:  Jeff Gore.

Some of my favorite conversations revolve around music and favorite song lyrics.  It is even more exciting when the person you’re talking to is an award-winning cowboy musician.  And so back in the fall of 2021, I took advantage of being with one of my best friends who fits that bill and recorded two conversations instead of one

We’re excited to bring back to the table singer/songwriter/author/actor/preacher/cowboy and my good friend Jeff Gore.  Jeff and his wife Donna travel across the United States singing cowboy music and ministering to ranching and rural families.  I was blessed for many years to come along beside them in this endeavor in a variety of places across Texas and the southwest.  Today’s episode is pure fun and a real treat for anyone who already knows Jeff’s music and voice.  We saved you a place at the chuckwagon.  www.jeffgore.org

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 4: HOME

Home.  The place we were always meant to be.

Home.  Where peace and being should be synonymous.  But when they’re not? 

Home.  The place where wounds are often felt the deepest.

Wherever you are in the Advent Christmas journey this year, please embrace this encouragement.  Let Jesus enter the home of your 2021 heart and heal and restore all that this broken world has brought to your door.

The good news of the birth of Jesus is still the good news.

Jesus says, “I’ll leave My home.  I’ll come to your home.  I’ll take your place.  I’ll make My home in you until I take you to My home.”  You will always find a place at His table because He is awaiting your presence this very day. 

Merry Christmas to you.

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 3: THRIVE

If you’re happy and you know, you’ll get over it.  Everybody eventually does.  But if you have ever known Joy and suddenly step into a season where it seems to have vanished…. well, that’s unsettling.  And some of us are in that season.

Last year, I found myself wrestling through a winter wonderland.  In the process, I renamed the 4 candles of Advent to bring a little clarity to the end of a year I had yet to understand.  And God did all the rest.  And today’s word “thrive” surprised me the most.  So, come, let us reason together.  Grab a latte, sit a spell, and let God’s Spirit breathe over whatever you are facing this day. 

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 2: REDEMPTION

Last year, I tossed the traditional Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace candles to help me make sense of a season that, at the time, I had little desire to celebrate.  Perhaps you’ve been there before.  Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is.  These special Advent episodes are for all who have wrestled or who are wrestling through this season of wonder. 

Last week, instead of lighting the first candle of Hope, we lit the candle of eucatastrophe.  Of the four traditional candles, Hope is probably the one most people still get. But today’s candle, Love, is probably the one that best fits the Inigo Montoya line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

If you want to test whether love is real or not, ask yourself, “How close does it resemble the love of God?”  There’s where you will find your answer.  So today, we are lighting the candle of redemption at the table of redemption.  And everyone has a place setting with your name on it.  Let us begin.   

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 1: EUCATASTROPHE

Two questions I often ask:  “Where are you hurting?”  “What is your hope?”We live in a world where hurting seems more prevalent than ever before as hope keeps wearing thin.
Welcome to Advent and not a moment too soon.  For the next four weeks, many followers of Jesus will light candles of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace in anticipation of Christmas.
Last year, I tossed Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for words that helped me make sense of a season I had little desire to celebrate.  Perhaps you’ve been there, too.  Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is.  This table is for all who have wrestled through this season of wonder.  Welcome.

THIS HOUR IS YOURS

Lunch and Conversation at Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Vestavia Hills, Alabama

                        Featuring Special Guest:  Jordan Cox

Our cars are packed and the journey awaits.  We move through the autumn cool towards welcome and warmth.  We gather together and abundance overflows to every plate.  We have a place at the table.  For many of us, this is the Thanksgiving we anticipate or at least remember.

Not everyone will know that kind of day tomorrow.  For some, that scene has never been.  For others, shadows have fallen and our joy is stifled.  Yet, gratitude still beckons for the claiming.

I’m excited for you to meet today’s Table Guest – Jordan Cox.  Jordan is a creative, a percussionist, a servant, a writer, and the Director of Communications at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  He is also a friend who has known his own shadow season.  At age 27, Jordan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.  To the glory of God, Jordan’s cancer is in remission today.  

Here is a story of encouragement with perspective.  And whether your Thanksgiving forecast be sunny or slight, chances are you’re about to hear a word that will increase your gratitude.  We saved you a place at the table.

ANTITHETICALLY ENIGMATIC

ANTITHETICALLY ENIGMATIC

     Think outside the box long enough and far enough, there will come a day when the box won’t let you back in.  Think outside the box anyway.  You’ll find Jesus out there.  Not to say you won’t also find Him inside the box where you originally learned His story and His name.  But eventually the box becomes the limiting confines of its own religious Truman Show.  It cannot help but, for whether the flavor be Anglican, Baptist, or Roman Catholic, it ain’t no Jesus.  But as Jesus warned Norton when Norton began to make fun of his former mentor, John the Baptist, in Grady Nutts’ wonderfully insightful The Gospel According to Norton, “The young idealist is frequently guilty of finding his Messiah and then spending his time belittling his Forerunner!”  Older idealists, whom are surprising rarities unto themselves, fall into the same trap.

     But back to finding oneself outside the box.  I am there.  I don’t belong anywhere.  And yet, I find myself welcome everywhere.  Funny how that is.  I am not welcome enough to speak before them collectively, but I am welcome enough to worship the One True God alongside them.  Jesus insisted they let my kind in.  I am an outsider.  I am Chuck Noland hanging with my beach volleyball.  I am Roy Hobbs with a piece of silver still tearing inside while standing at the plate.  I am Ethan Edwards in the final frame.   

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

     How antithetical to be an outsider and an insider at the same time.  How antithetical to live life at the 3-mph speed of God while sensing the planet spin full throttle in all its Mach 1.4 thunder beneath my feet.  How antithetical to live life so fully every day that entire volumes would not hold the full weight of their glory or their story, while at the same time strung in tension on the lament of a single moment months prior whilst being stretched to the unknown of Kingdom come.


One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

     How antithetical to be spun forwards and backwards while grasped mid-gasp in Abba’s embrace, spun forwards and backwards like a kaleidoscope in the hands of an autistic toddler, spun forwards and backwards from breath of eternity to eternal breath.  Time stands still and won’t stop spinning.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

     Life is a building of stories.  Live 62 stories tall and, if you are wise, you will keep the windows open, for you never know what kind of heaven will float inside.  Nor can you guess which clouds prophets use for chariots.  Sometimes those prophets resemble Mickey Mouse conducting a band concert in a cyclone.  They spin until they have spun the Truth long foretold by their own distinct voice.  And if you can’t tell mouse from Malachi, here’s a helpful hint.  Mickey’s not sporting a beard.


For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go, there was never,
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

     A lot has flown in and out the windows this month, this year, this decade.  One can always find an abundance of onramps to redemption’s path and whack-a-mole.  I dare imagine they are synonymous.  Last Sunday night I found myself singing with children in a musical.  There was one particular song I was not especially fond of, and it was my moment of truth solo.  It wasn’t the words I objected to; it was the tune.  It was bland.  But the truth of the words, though simple, were solid.  “God is thinkin’ about you.  You’re on His mind the whole day through …. Of all the things that could fill His mind, of all the things that could take His time.  How amazing to know that He –  thinks of you – constantly!”  As I began to sing that song to the children who were intently looking at me deeper than any congregation I’ve known this entire season – snap – something broke in me and I choked up.  Ain’t it just like God to sneak up on you where you least expect Him.

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

     Later that evening, I sat down to watch a movie just because the title intrigued me – The Big Year.  After the last two years most of us have been given, who doesn’t yearn for a big year to come along and restore all the crops the locusts have eaten.  I had no idea the movie was about birds and birders and a real competition to see who can see and identify the most bird species in North America in a calendar year.   What it was was pure delight.  A story of innocent wonder, deferred hope, and controlling obsession.  Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson play a trio of cuckoos after the coveted claim.  

     So now words are pouring through the window (“constantly!”) and birds are murmurating past my mind’s eye and then out of the blue drops this other song that I have yet to get out of my head.  It’s driving tempo and words have led my fool’s parade this week. Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”


Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

     And thus the week spun.  Constantly!  Through autumn vibrance and a barbeque podcast, listening to a friend share his story and good conversation and deep insight.  Through a monthly meeting with my therapist where I questioned if I am naught but a fool at a fork again.  Through a drive to northern Alabama and a 39-degree morning where I stepped into a valley of hush so thick the earth surely must have been lingering in awe over the partial lunar eclipse from the night before.  Trekking downward to the canyon floor and the Walls of Jericho and the singing of water cascading out of an underground choir chancel, processioning through and reverberating off an amphitheater of stone.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

     All week long these words have swirled around me like boards come loose from the side of a house in a storm and some of these lyrics have made their mark on my soul in multiple passings.  Some of these words ring true.  Not all, but some.  Enough of the enigmatic makes perfect sense to me, so I keep on singing it.  It’s kind of like staring into a glass darkly as it begins to thaw.  I find that ironic, like irony sharpening irony.  And so, before I preached the Word of God this morning, I danced these words before the Lord.  What you can’t understand yet might hold more authenticity that what you think you already know.  

For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

     One would imagine that last line a spiritual dilemma for me.  Yet it is true.  

For some reason I can’t explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.  

His is not the voice I’m listening for.

GOD’S OWN FOOL

It’s mid-November.  The season of gratitude and anticipation is upon us.  Preparation for the celebration of the birth of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, has begun.  The birth of God’s only begotten Son.  The birth of God’s own fool.

Jesus is a fool! 

If you have a pulse, those four words ought to evoke something besides indifference.  And you might want to buckle up your seatbelt for this episode.  There may be turbulence, or dis-turbulence before this Table stops spinning.  Either way, we saved you a seat.