Sunday, March 24, 2013

On Being Still

Are you an ants-in-your-pants Christian?

Our Families In Training (FIT) class at Corner-Stone this week was about being still in The Lord. Easy enough, right?

Or is it?

I mean, I can be still. I can be quiet. I can "chillax". But is that me resting in The Lord, or is it just me exercising good manners?

I admit, it's hard to be still, these days. Sensory excitement is no more than a click, a tap or a URL or app, away. It's just so doggone easy to stay busy.

And, as a middle-aged man who grew up watching my male role models define their manhood (largely) by success and hard work, it almost feels disrespectful to not have something to do.

What's the saying?..."You can rest when you're dead".

Most of us have this problem with truly doing nothing. Why, in our world, are we so opposed to not having something to do? Is that what God is talking about? Is that what "being still" is?

We might think it means praying. But that's mostly talking, isn't it? Maybe it's reading our Bibles. But that's still being active. That's being still, in body. But what if God means something more than that? Something deeper?

My mama used to ask me if I had ants in my pants...when I was little, of course. And my kids seem to have the same tendencies.

I wonder though, if God is asking me the same thing, spiritually, today? Can I not be still, for just a few minutes?

God desires us to stop and listen to Him. To cease our spiritual wiggling. To be still.

Why? Well for one, we hear Him best when we allow ourselves to be still. How can we hear Gods voice when we won't stop telling Him what we want Him to tell us to do?

Another, maybe deeper aspect, is that being still lowers our walls. It exposes us and makes us vulnerable. That might not sound so hot though. And why?

Well, lowering our defenses isn't something we want to do in the presence of an enemy. Opening ourselves up leaves us open for attack from those who would seek to hurt us or take something from us.

But why in the world would we be that way toward God?

Because maybe we don't truly trust Him to choose the right path for us. Maybe we can't shut up because we're afraid. Maybe we refuse to be still because we feel the need to work it out on our own.

When we stop and be still and listen to God's direction, we say "God, I trust You. I know You will lead me into what is best for me".


Life Challenge: Determine to spend time, each day, being spiritually still. Listen to God. Wait for Him and long to receive His guidance. It won't be easy at first, but will become a necessity, before long.

In the Word: Psalm 37:7 - Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Prayer: My good and caring Father, I know that You only desire what is good for me. That You have blessing for me and not a curse. Please forgive my unwillingness to listen to You. And help me to learn how stilling my heart and my mind can draw me closer to You and Your words of life for me. Amen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty busy guy. I mean between work, kids, baths, breakfasts, housework, yard work, church, errands, family...shoot, sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day. You know what I mean.

And in the middle of it all, what's usually the first to get the axe when schedules get tight? For me, prayer and my Bible.

I find myself thinking "In today's world, how can I have a daily Bible study? Ain't nobody got time for that."

Too blunt? Maybe. But when we brush off God in our hurriedness, we're basically saying "God? Ain't nobody got time for You."

Let me challenge you, and myself. Can we find five minutes? I can. Less time on Facebook. Less time watching the news. Less time reading the paper or a magazine or an article on line.

One less YouTube video. One less Tweet. One less text. I can find those few extra minutes in my day that I waste on trivial things, and re-offer them back to God.

Start saying "Five minutes with God...everybody got time for that."


In the Word: Psalm 5:3 - O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Extended Study: Read and meditate on all of Psalm 119.

Prayer: Gracious and patient Lord, I repent of the indifference I've shown You. You are important to me and my days are incomplete unless I spend time with You. Help me as I commit myself to the promise of daily communing with You, in Your Word and in prayer. Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Peace That Surpasses Understanding

This morning, the news spread like a fire through our workplace and small, North GA community. The Jackson and Banks County areas are rural and loosely populated, and one of those parts of the world where most everybody really does know almost everybody.
“A student shot themselves at Banks County High School this morning”, my wife told me. 

No name. No details. But immediately, my mind started scrolling through the names and faces of teenagers we knew who attended there. Family. Kids of friends. Neighbors. Even people we only “know of”. Not that it would lessen the impact if the student is unknown to us, but being honest…that’s just what I thought. 

Bits and pieces incrementally came together. A news clip here. An office conversation there. Someone’s husband called in with an update. A Facebook post to fill in some gaps. Finally, a name. The news that he is actually still alive. And before long, most of us had a reasonably clear picture as to what had happened. 

I don’t know this young man. At all. No clue as to what kind of kid he was. What his social standing was. What color his hair and eyes are, or who his parents might be. But it doesn’t matter. In the end, it’s a recurring story, regardless of race, color or creed. Quite simply, a young man, relatively uneventfully, walked into school this morning. Stopped. Pulled out a pistol, pointed it at himself, and pulled the trigger. 

Good Lord. 

Caleb, my middle son is 15. His face keeps flashing in my mind as this story gets told and retold and talked about. 

And as it does, lots of folks, including myself, are asking the obvious question, “Why?” 

And I honestly don’t know. Experience apparently isn’t always a great teacher, because even though this is something many of us have seen, before…I still can’t explain it.

It happens far too often. A teenager (popular or not) has the mounting pressures of, well…of being a teenager. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Grades. Sex. Clothes. A phone. A car. A talent. A sport. A date. Hormones. Dreams. Grand plans. They struggle. They worry. They panic. They’re terrified of what they can’t control and don’t understand. Maybe this one doesn’t deal with things the way most of the other kids seem to be. And finally, in desperation, thinking there’s no other way out…they end it. 

It’s all too common. And is getting worse. Nearly 20% of high school students report having considered killing themselves. And almost 15% have actually made plans to go through with it. Just a couple of years ago, do you know nearly 5,000 kids aged 5-24 took their own life? That’s about a child, every couple of hours…24/7, 365 days a year.  And estimates say that for every suicide that succeeds, another 25 don’t. 

This is a problem. But not a new one… 

When I was in school, it happened twice, that I can remember. 

The first time, a young man at our school hung himself in his closet. Why? Why would he do that!? He was popular, good looking, smart, active and involved. God, how long had we been in school together…since 2nd grade? Who would’ve ever guessed what was going on in his mind. Afterwards, the rest of us came back to school to a world turned completely upside-down that next day. Everyone confused and at a loss and asking “Why?”. It just didn’t make sense. 

A few years later, another kid, also hung himself. Same outcome…but a different set of circumstances this time. He was admittedly slow, academically. Mostly unpopular. No new, trendy shoes or clothes. No girlfriend. Even openly picked on at school. He lived just down the road from my house. We even rode the bus home and walked a good quarter of a mile to my driveway together every day, before he continued on his way to his house. Life was hard for him at school. I mean, I wasn’t openly cruel to him, like I had seen some be. But I still laughed at him when the rest of my peers laughed. And I certainly didn’t go out of my way or make any point to be particularly nice.  

If you went to school with me, you know the kid I'm talking about. You know what he dealt with from us. All of us. 

That following Monday at school, was again, a day of shock for all of us. “What is going on? Why!?” Only this time, shock came with the common shadow of guilt hanging over all of us. That wondering if we caused this…or could’ve prevented it. This time, it did make sense…but still left us at a loss. 

Why? Always, “Why?”. 

I don’t know. I really don’t know. 

I do know this though…that as odd as it may be to say it…I not only remember those events in my school, but I also remember the reactions of the student body, after they happened. I remember the “air” in the hallways. I remember the manner of the students in the lunchroom. The conversations between classes. And on the whole, I must confess…those two periods of sadness and distress were the greatest moments of strength and kindness and friendship, that I can remember, at our school. We drew in upon ourselves, in the wake of that storm, and found our strength in each other. 

Did God cause those boys to kill themselves? No, I don’t believe so. But did He allow those dark days to bring about an unexpected sense of good, in all of us? Yes, I firmly believe He did. 

Is that the “good”, in the midst of the “bad”? I don’t know if I could call it “good”. But if God gave us the chance to receive a blessing, out of that apparent curse, then yes, I believe in that “good”. A most unexpected good. 

So at the end of this day, again, I can’t look at this and answer the why. I can’t say what we could’ve done. What we could not have done. I can’t tell you how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

But I can say with absolute certainty, that if we allow it, God is able to take times like this and transform them into instruments of the greatest encouragement and compassion. Into days of hope. Into brotherhood and love for one another, in a way that will surprise us. And then we can believe that nothing ever happens, in vain. That our God is “working all things together for good, for them that love Him.” 

May we pray for faith in Him. Faith that leads us to peace. And a peace that goes beyond our ability to understand the outcome. 



“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV) 

“And the peace of God, which transcends (or passes, or surpasses) all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7 (NIV) 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fifty Shades of Gray: The Sin Rationale

Lately, I keep hearing about this book series Fifty Shades of… whatever. There are three titles in the “Fifty” series.

I know there has been some controversy over the content. I’ve heard that it’s everything from “adult in nature” to outright “softcore porn” (is there really such a thing?). Regardless, I get the idea that it’s quite graphic and quite mature in nature and it’s definitely not appropriate reading for minors, in particular.

Well…for any of us, for that matter.

But despite the hoopla, the books are soaring in popularity. There are a LOT of people buying these books. Like, millions. And that’s a whole different blog entry…:)

In light of all this, it makes me wonder…where is the line? Not just in the material we read, but beyond that. Where is the line for our lives? For our desires? For our intent? Do we exist in our own fifty shades of gray?

Where is the line between a sin and a “not sin”? Or in our culture, today, IS there even a line at all? Or is it more of a zone? Our own “gray zone”. An area that fades evenly and gradually from the total blackness of sin to the complete white of holiness.

And if so, is God OK with that?

Well, let’s just get right to that last one. How does God feel about the “sin rationale”? About “relative sin”…sin that varies in severity depending on the circumstance?

Sorry to be harsh, but the truth is, sin, from God’s POV, is an absolute. It either is or it isn’t. There is no in-between. Something is either a sin or it isn’t.

But sin doesn’t want to be limited by that. Sin wants to have room to breathe and evolve. And we (people in general) are cool with that, because when we sin, we like to have a little room to try to justify it.

No? Look at Adam and Eve.

There they are. Garden of Eden. God says don’t touch this tree. They do it anyway. Bam. Major turning in the story. Now…at this point, we can define Adam and Eve’s actions as “a sin”. Wouldn’t you say? They disobeyed God, right? But what happens next is indicative of our nature as a sinful people. We can sum it up in one word. “But”.

“But God, the woman did it.”

“But God, we were hungry.”

“But God, You made the tree.” (Careful, now.)

“But God. But God. But God…”

The sin rationale is something we struggle with, daily. We live under the curse of wanting to explain our sins. To justify them. We think we have just cause for our actions. Reasons for our behavior. We have our own fifty shades of gray that say “But God, this is why I did it. Doesn’t that matter? Doesn’t that change things?”

So what is God’s perspective on shades of gray and the sin rationale?

Well, throughout the Bible, we see that God (or Jesus) is very clear about His intent and purpose. He is very defined in His vision. You never read about God saying to Moses “I know I told you I’d lead you, but there was this thing, at this place, with a guy…” He never needs to explain why He didn’t do something He previously said He would do. You never read of Him having to justify changing his mind.

For me, the most telling passage of scripture comes in The Revelation (Rev 3:15-16), when Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, “I know your deeds, and you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”


God doesn’t deal in lukewarm, does He? Or shades of gray, fifty or otherwise.

So in closing, my question comes, “So now what?”

If the sin rationale is in our nature, and if that’s the nature of Sin, and if Satan realizes this and knows how to use it against us…how can we possibly defeat it? How can we resist the urge to deal in shades of gray? Are we doomed to fail?

Yes. We are. In and of ourselves, at least.

But thank God, in His infinite wisdom, He gave us the Holy Spirit who can work in and through us to break the curse of the sin rationale and move beyond the illusion of sin that is gray. In the infinitely complex world of shades of gray, we spend all of our time looking for the right shade for the right moment for the right reason. Make it easy on yourself…

Life is so much more colorful, in black and white.


PRAYER: Lord, I realize that I’ve been dealing in shades of gray when it comes to not only my sin, but in my relationship with You. Help me. Take away the gray. Bring me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, into a life where You are my God, absolutely, no in-between, no rationales, no shades of gray. Amen.

SCRIPTURES: Revelation 3:15-16, Matthew 5:37, James 5:12, James 1:17

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Motherless Mother's Day

 As we approach another Mother’s Day, I must admit, even though it’s a wonderful holiday and a beautiful time that we’ve set aside to honor mothers (and deservingly so!)…it’s a bittersweet time for a lot of people. Myself included.

 My mama unexpectedly passed away (way too young) February 2, 2006. Hard to believe it’s been 6 years already.

 Of course, few of us ever realize how important our mothers are to us, until they’re gone. Then we do lots of looking back and wishing we would’ve done or said things differently. And in that light, I wanted to post an encouraging word to some of us who will be experiencing a Motherless Mother’s Day.

 When my mama died, a piece of me died along with her. And I would say that’s probably true for most any of us who’ve lost our moms. Particularly for boys. Boys have a special something with mamas that’s just different (sorry girls). In general, boys just bond more emotionally with their mothers than their dads. But so it is with girls and daddys. If we admit it, men, most of us are mama’s boys, at heart, aren’t we? :)

 I say that “a piece of me died”, but maybe not like you might think. It isn’t that I slumped into depression, or cried for a solid week, or had some emotional epiphany that changed the course of my life. Honestly, whatever it was in me that died…I didn’t even know it, myself, at the time.

 It was probably…three years later…right around the time Jude was born, that it happened for me. About then, it began to sink in that my mom wasn’t only gone…but she was no longer available. I mean, I knew she was gone, of course, but only later did it just almost blind-side me that I could not pick up the phone and call her. Something that simple.

 And it was then that I started to understand how much I'd taken her being here, for granted. I guess you’d say, I finally noticed the heaviness of this dead weight in me. And when I did, it was like losing her all over again…only worse. It was the worst feeling I can ever remember having, and I now know what it feels like to miss someone so much that it actually hurts. Even now, when I get that far away "glaze" going on and Cretia say's "What's wrong?", although I'll always say "Oh, nothing.", the truth is, sometimes I guess it's my grief (or regret or memories) gnawing on me.

 Of course, I couldn’t neglect to tell you, if you still have your mother…don’t you dare let this Mother’s Day come, without putting everything on hold, and catering to her, at least for that one day. Talk to her. Sit with her. Take her to church. To lunch. To the park. She will love it, probably more than you can imagine. Make the most of what you have, because when it’s gone, you will yearn to have it back. I promise.

 But if, like me, your mom is already gone, there’s still light for you. (And not just you men!) The possible scenarios are endless, but here’s one…

For me, my mama may be gone, but my wife is also a mother! (Imagine that!) And in her, I get the chance to not only honor my best friend as a mom, but I now have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to show my kids how a mother should always be treated.

We cannot go back. That’s a fact. But if you’re like me…if you’ve lost your mom already, and you have a wife and kids, wow…what a gift we’ve been given. Now, we not only have our kids to teach and shape and mold and guide into an example of Godliness and respect, but we also have perspective. And true perspective is never gotten, cheaply, is it? The price that comes with gaining a genuine perspective on your life…it only seems to come (and stick) when you gain it through pain or hardship, doesn't it?

 But what a valuable resource God gives us, when we finally have it!

 I encourage you to use your loss AND your perspective and let God lead you and your family into a time of renewal and joy, this holiday. Teach your children all you can about honoring their mother. Reach into your memories and your knowledge and do all you can to help your kids do all they can do for their moms. It’s a gift that will pay immeasurable dividends!

 Remember the words of King Lemuel (actually, inspired by the words of his mother) speaking of “a wife of noble character” in Proverbs 31:28 – “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her.” (Really, that entire 31st chapter is a fantastic passage for all Mothers.) Mothers are made to be praised! So get to it! :)

 And if this Sunday brings a Motherless Mother’s Day to you, it’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to remember. It’s even OK to mourn. But let’s not allow this day be overcome with despair. Let’s determine in our hearts, to continue to honor our mothers by passing on the examples of love and respect that they gave us.

 From one child to another…Have a Happy Mother’s Day!


PRAYER: God empower us. Fill us with insight and wisdom. Compel us to be examples of love and respect as we recognize them on this Mother’s Day. And Father, help each of us to draw upon the inherited influence of our mothers and grandmothers and wives, and as we honor them, also bring glory and honor to You. Amen.


For more on the music and ministry work of Ricky Fitzpatrick, go to or for Worship info visit Corner-Stone Church at 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Praying, First String

I have to say, I was completely encouraged today when I read through Pastor Pete Wilson’s blogpost, I Stink At Prayer ( “Encouraged” because, that’s me, man. I mean, if there’s public praying to be done, I promise you, I am not your guy. Not that I can’t or that I dislike it or get stage fright or something. But there’s something about my public prayers that’s just…well…disjointed, is probably a good word.

There are certain people I’ve encountered throughout my life who are awesome prayers. I mean seriously, they say just the right thing, in just the right way. The content is perfect. The length is perfect. And the language they use is that perfect balance between approachability and poetic. You know what I mean. Our pastor at Corner-Stone Church, Pastor Darrel Rewis, is one of those people. Just a natural gift for it, it seems.

That, however, is not me. I have wished to be a prayer like that, but it just doesn’t fall naturally to me.

One of the great praying pastors who specifically stands out for me is Bro. Curtis Hammond, who (now retired) mentored me many moons ago as a young man of God, and led the Freedom Church of God flock for many, many years. I’ve had other people at Freedom say to me “Now that man can really pray”. And yes he could…Brother Hammond could for sure, flat out pray. When he prayed, I could just imagine God saying to the angels “Now boys, that’s how it’s done.”

So what’s a guy to do? I mean, if you’re going to be a Christian, you kindof have to pray. And if you’re just not that fluid at it in public (like me), well then that might really be a sore spot for you. So I started asking myself some basic questions. Maybe you’re asking yourself some of the same questions: 

·       What is a “good prayer”?
·       What is my goal, when I pray?
·       Can someone learn to pray? Isn’t that fake?

Frankly, I think I could write a book on this. But to scratch the surface, these were the (beginning) answers that made sense to me. See if they speak to you too.

What is a “good prayer”? Well there are lots of possible descriptions, but I think it all comes down to one word. “Love”. When we pray beyond ourselves (not that we can’t pray for our own issues), we tap into one of the real essential driving forces, of Jesus. Selfless compassion for those around us.

What is my goal, when I pray? This ties back to question number 1, but also…when I ask this, I also have to ask “How often do I ask God for something when I pray?” I believe God honors the requests that we bring before Him, but am I also compelled to just ramble on about His goodness, sometimes? We use God as our own little genie in a bottle so often, that we don’t even think about it, until we stop and look. Maybe I need to realign my focus for some of my prayers.

Can someone learn to pray? Isn’t that fake? This is touchy. The answer to the first part is an obvious “yes”. Jesus said in Matthew 6:9-13, “This is how you pray.” So yes, God is cool with us breaking it down into learnable chunks. Jesus actually encourages us to do what He does!

Is that fake? Well, it depends. Kind of back to “What is your goal?” I think we should ask ourselves “Why do I want to be a better public prayer?” Is it to impress the deacons? Is it to practice our public speaking skills? Is it to have a platform to express our thoughts? Is it to reach out to the lost, more effectively? Is it to skillfully praise our Creator?

In a nutshell, I look at it like, I want to learn how to publicly pray in a way that both, honors God AND speaks to the body in a relevant manner. And I think a conscious effort to improve my public delivery is perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to God.

After that, everything else should just take care of itself.

More on this subject to come later…I like this. :) I need a lot of work in this area, and I believe there is much for us to learn. Til then…!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Living Stones

I recently listened to a message series form the fabulous Bob Kauflin (ala Sovereign Grace Ministries). How compelling and convicting his words were.

The context of one of his segments was I Peter 2:4-5. A passage I had, amazingly read a million times, but never noticed how poignant it is. The phrase “living stones” jumped out at me, having taken notice of it for the very first time.

After listening to Bob's message, I started asking myself questions. And from a musical (particularly a worship leading) perspective, I had to start evaluating and asking myself about my heart for service, in a way that not only uses God’s gifts, but considers His divine will as my baseline for all I do.

Through the writing and playing of songs, the issue of usability always comes into play. Not usability of the songs per se, but of me. How useable am I allowing myself to be? How deep am I willing to let God lead me? Am I really fully sacrificing my own will, for the will of God? Is my own ego preventing these songs from being effective instruments of grace/praise/compassion? (Whew, that last one's a tough one.)

While there are times when I am lukewarm and uncertain, God’s word is abundantly clear and unmistakable when it comes to the issue of His desire to use His people. I look at us, in the context of Peter’s writings (below scripture), as bricks that God is carefully selecting and placing, in the construction of His magnificent structure.

And like our master living Stone, Jesus is the chief and perfect Cornerstone of that building. We are products of Him, re-created for the purpose of God’s good pleasure.

I pray that the songs the Holy Spirit urges us to sing at our Church (and your church) this Sunday (and any Sunday), will speak to each of us and remind us of the glorious purpose for which God has destined us. That being, that we are living stones, and through the singing of and listening to music like this, we are honoring our Father, undertaking part of our priestly duties, and offering willing sacrifices of song to our Lord God.

I think I feel like singing! :)


Scripture: I Peter 2:4-5 - As you come to Him, the living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, move in me, and use me, and show me Your heart for me. Remind me that Your children are the Body of Christ and You use Your obedient people to demonstrate Your love to the dying and lost. Build Your vision of love, and let me be a living stone within it, in the same fashion as Jesus, the Cornerstone. In His name I pray…Amen.