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Once in every show
There comes a song like this
It starts off soft and low
And ends up with a kiss
Oh where is the song
That goes like this?
Where is it? Where? Where?

A sentimental song
That casts a magic spell
They all will hum along….

…..For this is the song that goes like this

Yes it is!
Yes it is!

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I was reminded of this tune during a performance on our university campus this past Friday night. A hilariously funny tune from the Broadway musical Spamalot, it got me to thinking. (sorry to spoil the fun). Is this how other parts of our life come across? Once in every “show”…?

We have a visitor in our home for a few days. A resident of Asian culture, Christianity and the traditions of Western religion are a “foreign” experience to her, indeed. As our church song service began this Sunday morning, I almost wondered if the tunes in her mind resembled the crooning of “Sir Dennis” in his quest for the Holy Grail. She was polite and present with her attention, but I wonder greatly how it all seemed to her.

Now we can go straight
Into the middle eight
A bridge that is too far for me

I’ll sing it in your face
While we both embrace
And then….We change…The key…

Now we’re into E!
*hem* That’s awfully high for me
But as everyone can see
We should have stayed in D
For this is our song that goes like this!

As my family and I sit in our living room with our guest tonight, we are experiencing the Grammys. I must say, as much as we each enjoy music of various and sundry varieties, I think it is a first for us all to share in viewing this award show in “Hacienda Bing”. But, take heart. The night is not a loss: I believe that I may now know how to fight “Foo”, along with those brave boys with the long hair, whatever that means. And I must say, our friend from the East appears to be really enjoying the broadcast, as are my young twins in fits and spurts. I even took time to Wiki “Adele”. Quite impressive.

Did I mention that Glen Campbell was once a CofC guy and that Katie Perry was a preacher’s kid?

I’m feeling very proud
You’re singing far too loud
That’s the way that this song goes
You’re standing on my toes
Singing our song that goes like this!

I can’t believe there’s more
It’s far too long, I’m sure
That’s the trouble with this song
It goes on and on and on
For this is our song that is too long!

So, here we are. The music performance I enjoy so much each Sunday is a product of my culture and confined universe. I now see that oh so much more clearly. But, does it adequately portray our love and heart for Christ and seeking His lost sheep, or is it just another “Song That Goes Like This”?

And so, our quest for the Holy Grail continues. Hopefully, for new friends from foreign lands, it is only just beginning.

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Day 3: ’nuff said.
As I was out walking on Day 2, Michael W. Smith’s “Kentucky Rose” came up on the iTunes. Take a quick look at the lyrics, and then I’ll make a suggestion.

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Sun comes up – Sunday morn
On the little church where I been since I was born
And there he stood – a hearty smile
You could hear his voice ringing out for a country mile
And he could place your mind at ease
With his tenderness and a heart that aimed to please
A pauper’s hands – a farmer’s clothes
Just a preacher man we called Kentucky Rose

He worked the soul like he worked the land
He spoke in ways that anyone could understand
Simple words of simple faith
And when it came to love, he would go out of his way
A helping hand – a soothing chat
And he practiced what he preached – imagine that
And as far as kindness goes
There was none compared to old Kentucky Rose

Evening stroll ‘cross Shyler’s bridge
That’s when he saw the boy trapped below that rocky ridge
He knew the danger he would face
But it’s as if he saved the child only to take his place

For on that ridge of stone and ice
Kentucky met his maker in sacrifice
Why he’s gone, God only knows
Maybe for the company of his Kentucky Rose

So peaceful in his Sunday best
He was buried on a hill and laid to rest
When people heard they came in droves
To say their last good-byes to sweet Kentucky Rose

Now, on that hill one flower grows
They say it is the spirit of Kentucky Rose
I believe it is the spirit of Kentucky Rose…

I’ve listened to Smith’s song dozens of times, but this one got me to thinking. Whether Smith intended “Kentucky” to be analogous to Another, I believe he is. Go back and read the words, replacing KR with JC, as in Jesus Christ. What do you think? The lyrics no longer rhyme, but I believe the message rings true.

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In an hour or two, I’ll meet up with the “little church where I’ve been since I was born”, all 2,500 strong. And, you see, this is is but one of dozens of locales of said “little church” that I’ve felt at home with.

Now, on that hill one flower grows
They say it is the spirit of Kentucky Rose
I believe it is the spirit of Kentucky Rose

That’s Kentucky, spelled with a J.

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Temptations flash mob for Dan Hays from Oklahoma Christian on Vimeo.

What a day. Awaking to news of an overnight earthquake, awaiting word of a loved one’s arrival at a distant port of call, experiencing a great homecoming gathering at old Alma Mater, seeing a living legend break a significant record, seeing a beast levitate and come down as a man, and ending the day feeling (while awake) my first noticeable quake. There was indeed a whole lotta’ shakin’ goin’ on. I even learned that multiple generational media and news legend Andy Rooney passed at 92.

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Two records were broken, to my knowledge, in those 24 hours. Certainly the quake is drawing the most attention, but Dan the man’s record for most wins as a collegiate coach in Oklahoma is my favorite of the two.

As evidenced by the video, Coach Hays has touched a life or two in his day, and those are just the current students. Countless others around the globe count him as a mentor and friend. Even my son has been touched many times by attention and support from our legendary coach. I was asking my son about his goals in a car ride the other day, and he said with eyes gleaming “my dream is to suit up one day for Coach Hays”. A lofty goal, indeed.

What makes Coach such a legend, in my mind, however is his anchor point. He does have sunshine on cloudy days, and plenty of clouds have rolled thru his era. He also has Son-shine. Christ is at Dan’s core, and it shines brightly.

Thank you, Coach, for some great times. Let’s keep on rolling.

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Where to start? That’s a tough one. His name is Bernhard. I’ll start there, and we’ll see where it finishes.

Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

We’ve established earlier on FB (when I was too tired to put any of this down) that myself and two co-workers are out of the country for business, working on facilities issues for one of our student programs. The plan was to fly out from OKC at noon on Friday, and to arrive at our destination city of Vienna, Austria at around 8:30 local time Saturday morning. That was the plan.

Upon arriving in the OKC airport and getting our passports scanned and our luggage checked, we were informed that the plane out of OKC had a mechanical delay and we were likely to miss our connecting flight from another city in The States to Vienna. After much wrangling over the phone with airline customer service and turning down options that would have us going everywhere from Chicago to London on our way here and take an extra 12 to 24 hours, we finally settled on a re-route thru Switzerland that would get us to Vienna about 3 hours later than originally planned, but it would mean a very tight connection time, and our luggage might not get correctly retagged and moved between planes to make it to Vienna with us. Oh well, they at least promised us good seats in exchange for our trouble, maybe even beds in Business Class. A good sleeping environment over the ocean would be well worth a 3 hour delay and maybe one night without luggage, we thought.

We barely made the connection, and they almost did not let us on the plane due to “confusion with the reservation”, but we did make it onto the flight. And as for the seats? Back two rows of the airplane, which also happened to be completely full, and my seat was middle of the row and away from my two co-workers. As Little Frau texted me to see how good the seats were, I had an unfortunate but to be expected answer for the moment. “Terrible”.

The seat next to me remained open for the last few minutes, along with two across the aisle by a window. Then a family of three came in, all speaking very rapid German, and claimed the seats with no eye contact or acknowledgment between us. I settled in for a very long and seemingly uncomfortable flight.

As we jetted down the runway and into the air, I saw the man reach across the aisle to take his wife’s hand. Hoping for a possible switch to the aisle, I motioned his way. While he did not understand or respond to my intended communication, we did begin to talk. His English was quite good, and he engaged very quickly.

As mentioned before, his name is Bernhard, and he said he is a “Joiner”. I understand that means a carpenter, in his land. Hold that thought.

He talked about his home. He talked about his daughter, a triathelete, and her strong performance in a recent race out west. We talked about his two sets of twins, and my twins, all three being boy/girl combinations.  Quite a coincidence?  We talked about my oldest child currently being in China, and he admirred what he referred to as “my amulet” bracelet that she got me on a mission trip to Mexico.   He talked about his work.   He is 3rd generation in a business begun in 1914 by his grandfather, then continued by his father, and now by him. While he has two sons, neither plan to work in the business, but one of his apprentices from a few years ago took his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage, and the business will likely continue with him. But the name? She took her husband’s  surname, which is not a given in Switzerland, but an option, even moreso than in the US.   The business bears Bernhard’s surname.    How will that work, he wonders?

But another thing is troubling to Bernhard. His new son in law is not a Catholic, as Bernhard has been all his life. He, and now the daughter, are both baptized members of the Free Church in Switzerland. This is different for him, and it became our primary point of conversation.

The hour or so that followed included discussions of Heaven, Hell, what they are, what they are not, and Purgatory (which Bernhard does not believe exists, if Heaven and Hell even do in substance) and all points in between, whether real or perceived, or maintained in the memories of those we all leave behind when we die. We held open a large fold out map of the world from the in-flight magazine, and he showed me all the places he had travelled to as a young man. He wondered aloud about how God should make a way for all people of all nations to get to Heaven, how it was hard for him to think there could be a place such as Hell, but how people like the Nazis and Americans who killed the “Indians”/native Americans could not deserve Heaven. And we talked about how it is easy/easier to be “Good Men” when times are good, but how it is hard not to be “not so good men” when times are hard.

Each of these points was initiated by Bernhard, and at one point, his wife called across the aisle to tell him that he “should let me eat my dinner”. After dinner, we actually made formal name and handshake introductions of ourselves to each other, now four hours into the flight. We had reached a point of non-agreement, but mutual appreciation for the discussion, and after a review of some Bible verses on my iPhone in English and German (thank you, You Version), we agreed it had been a good discussion and was time for sleep.

As the flight crew began to stir us a short time later with lights and breakfast, I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 PM Friday in Oklahoma, but the sun was coming up on Saturday as we moved across France and further into Europe. I adjusted my watch, “Dialing Up” for the new day that we were already experiencing. And, I was “dialing in” with Bernhard, or as my coworkers called him, “my new friend”. He reached across the aisle just before we landed and took a pad of paper and a pencil from his wife, and he began to write. He then handed me the a slip of paper. (I’ve not included it all in the picture above, for hopefully obvious reasons).

Bernhard invited me, and my family, if we ever come to Switzerland, to spend several days and nights with his family in their small village near the Swiss/German border. He carefully explained every character of his handwritting, from the name, to the address, to the phone number, to the email address. I gave him a business card and told him the same if he is “ever in Oklahoma”. I should be prepared, as his daughter may very well find a triathalon near our home before we fly anywhere near theirs.

Now, back to the beginning.   Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Our flight was delayed, and our plans were changed, but I can’t help but think about how God wanted someone to be there to listen to and engage with Bernhard, for clearly he was ready to talk.

As we worshipped this morning with our OC students and the students from Lipscomb University, one of them shared how this verse meant so much to them and their experience here in another land and another culture, and it further fed my thinking about this “chance” encounter in row 38, seat E. It was a better seat than I ever expected, and I’m humbled by the experience. I’m also challenged, as I feel Bernhard’s invitation to visit can’t be left to collect dust when things like email and the web are right at our fingertips.

Another person was talking to me later tonight, totally out of context, about how he “sees how God is working right now” in a small local church that we visited tonight. I think God was working on the plane Friday night. How many other times is he working and expecting me to pick up the task, but I fail to see or respond because the environment is different or I’m somehow inconvenienced?

I know another carpenter. He too is a “Joiner”. And, I think he wants me to not drop the ball with “my new friend”.

And, by the way, our luggage was right there for us when we got to Vienna. It’s hard to believe, but it should’nt be. After all, I’m not the one doing the planning here.

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Wildfires have been raging recently in and around our town. People have lost their homes, and many others have been forced to evacuate. My wife and I found ourselves caught in the middle of it all last night while trying to drive a simple 15 minute straight line from Point A to Point B.

I’ve never lost a house and possessions to fire, but once or twice have experienced the preparation to run thinking in a rural Texas setting. You wonder what to do. Who can stand against such odds?

All of us, however, have endured other virtual wildfires that life has thrown toward us. Some fires are man made; others just happen. And what do we do?

Romans 8: 31-39: What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[n]) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[o] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Chris Tomlin tune “Our God” was on the iPod this morning, and it seems the best way to close these thoughts.

Water You turned into wine
Open the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like You
None like You
Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like You
None like You

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

Into the darkness you shining
Out of the ashes we Rise
There’s no One like You
None like You.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

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Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,

The tune lyrics below from The Sidewalk Prophets has been following me around the past few days.

Isaiah was quite the “walking path” prophet in his own right and day, and his words, ultimately those of the LORD, have been before me this morning.

May we be strengthened this morning, and acknowledge and worship Him
fully. He loves us, anyway…

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind
Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside

But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known

Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me

It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?

But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway

I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway

I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway

I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

But You love me anyway
Oh, God… how you love me
You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known

You love me anyway

Oh Lord, how You love me

How You love me

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There is a story, three stories actually, about a man named Danny Ocean: charismatic leader, good friend, and crook. Danny had an entourage of compatriots, and that entourage grew as the storyline continued, first eleven, then twelve, and finally totaling out at thirteen.

Ocean is more than just a name. An ocean is a body of water: living, moving, active water. And the ocean picture that follows is the social media profile picture of a different young man, and this one’s name is James: charismatic character, good friend, but he’s no crook.

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James, a neighbor and classmate to two of my own personal entourage, recently went to church camp, and the story of this entourage, along with the group’s total headcount, continues to grow. First reported as eight, it quickly grew to ten, and totaled out this morning at sixteen. Maybe the growth is not done, yet? The spiritual growth, certainly not, even if the numerical growth has stopped for now.

Maybe we’ll call this group “God’s sixteen”. Sixteen baptisms, all a result of the time, care, and love recently encountered, together. This picture has a few of them, James included, as well as some of their friends who made a difference. And it excludes a few, like the twin sisters and the family of quadruplets, all who were added to God’s group today. One of the quads, I forget which one, even infamously stood at the top of the stairs in our house many years ago as a youngster and “relieved himself” in an arching stream to the first floor down below. But it is OK: I have forgiven him!

And God has forgiven them all, as they have all taken a dip into a body of water: living, moving, active water. It certainly was moving and active this morning and this past week.

But, I think we’ll go with “Jesus’ 16” as the unofficial name for the group. God won’t mind sharing the credit, and Jesus is the perfect charismatic friend to draw more numbers to the group.

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