Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Some very exciting things are happening at Highland and in Abilene. Recently the leadership brought a new vision statement to the church for the next 20 years. It all revolves around restoration...restoration of Highland (people's hearts, marriages, community, even physical remodeling), restoration of Abilene (ending systemic homelessness through a "housing first" model, growing our satellite campuses Freedom Fellowship and Grace Fellowship, adopting a school, etc.), and restoring the world (partnering with Eternal Threads in helping girls get out of sex trafficking in Napal and other areas, building water wells in Africa, and supporting ministries like CenterPeace which help broken hearts heal).

We are currently in the middle of a 40 Days of Prayer initiative which began last Wednesday night as members of Highland spread out all over Abilene to pray together for this city. Our Director of Communication (Matt Pinson) took some of the video footage from those prayer locations (including our two satellite campuses, Grace and Freedom) and used a prayer written by one of our Highland members, Lauren Cunningham, to tie it all together. We showed this on Sunday and I absolutely loved it! I wanted to share it with all of you...

This is my prayer for Highland from Highland Church on Vimeo.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Hands Reaching Around the World

Over the course of the last week my blog was linked to stories on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, The London Daily, The Christian Chronicle, and the NY Times. It is another reminder of the power of the written word. But the power of that blog (see below "If Tomorrow Never Comes") was not the written word. It was the Living Word.

In my tribute to Diana Reed it is easy to see that the real star of that story is Jesus. Diana and Wayne's faith and trust in Jesus served as a lens from which to view all of the messiness and difficulties of life. They made a choice to believe in the restoration power that God provides in the hope of one day tasting  the true restoration of our bodies and souls.

I apologize to members of the media for going under ground these last few days. In order to respect the family's privacy many agreed not to be interviewed. (Unfortunately, I had already given an interview with News Channel 5 in Nashville which I asked them not to air, but they did anyway.) As I listened to each reporter's voice mail I was struck with the same themes over and over.

"Tell us more about Diana Reed and her strength to overcome the battles they faced." 
"We want the world to hear about this amazing women and her journey." 
"Tell us more about Diana's faith." 
"Can you describe the love story of Wayne and Diana Reed?"

These all kind of speak for themselves, don't they? It's not often that you get a call from a NY Times reporter wanting to hear about the amazing life and faith of one of your friends. While none of those interviews were granted, they did lift quotes from this blog and link the stories back here. I am just thankful that people all over the world were able to hear about the incredible life Diana lived. And, mine is only a tiny piece of a huge novel that friends could write about this amazing woman...friends who were Diana's closest confidants like Pat Ward. They can testify to the daily faith that Diana and Wayne have embodied.

If there's one thing that connects us all, it's death. We're struck by the tragedy. We feel empathy. We grieve along side those who grieve. We get frustrated by what seems to be an injustice. We ask questions...primarily, "Why??" And we all want to know how to make sense of this. In this instance, hands reached around the world to rally and support the Reed family. Diana's life mattered. It rippled every day in quiet waves of grace and kindness. It continues to ripple now highlighting the story she devoted her life to.

As my friend Josh Graves (minister at Otter Creek Church in Nashville) wrote this week,
"Death reminds us that we do not ever lose control, we lose the illusion that we were ever in control to begin with. To die is to let go, and trust that the God who spoke you into being is going to see you through into the next great chapter of life. The life that will not end."

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

If Tomorrow Never Comes

It is within each of us as human beings to be forgetful. Since the beginning of human history we have exercised that right. We forget the truth. We forget the wonders of God. We forget people. We forget our keys. It is innate in the human condition to see through the glass dimly...and herald it as clarity. It is human propensity to build bigger barns, to swear by tomorrow and to forget the truth that we are but a blade of today and gone tomorrow. What makes us unique is that the All-powerful Jehovah God has this crazy crush on us. He is willing to look foolish for us. He stalks us. He calls us at all hours of the night. He sends us love letters in a painted sky. He gave up His own Son for our worthless souls...not worthless at all to Him.

We make plans for the future based on what seems most likely to happen. Often we begin to live in a deluded sense of reality that tells us we can certainly predict what's coming. To put it fairly, it's pretty understandable that we would end up in that place. God has given us a sense of discernment and we often try to exercise that muscle in figuring out how to plan for the future. We invest our money, make the right choices, build the best houses, and select the right friends to help us on this journey. And, often our intuition is justified by things playing out exactly as we had hoped or thought.

Then there are days...moments...seconds...where all the air is sucked out of the room, where you hear words like "cancer" or "stroke" or "you've been found out." It's in those exact moments you truly get in touch with your own finite nature.

Some friends of ours in Nashville are going through the pain of that realization right now. Wayne Reed was diagnosed over 20 years ago with with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). For years, his hilarious, beautiful and full of life wife, Diana, has cared for him. Most of us could foresee the way this was going. Wayne, with ALS, wouldn't one does. Generally speaking, that disease causes rapid decline. Friends prepared for the worst. Well, 20 years later, Wayne is still with us. He has had a very difficult road physically and emotionally over those years. Diana has been his strength. She fought through the battles with grace and laughter. Always quick witted, she asked hard questions and chose to LIVE life. Then, in an oxygen suck moment, Diana found herself in the hospital struggling through Meningitis. Over the course of the last week she has gone from someone brimming with life to someone in the process of passing from this life to the next. Her brain couldn't take the stress. After a series of strokes they moved her to Hospice care. Wayne, one of the longest surviving patients with ALS, there by her side. What plan does this fit into? I ask you, in what world does this make sense??

It is a mirror we find ourselves peering into right now. An image that makes a little more sense when put into context...we are finite. We are, as Psalm 103:15 puts it, "like grass. We flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more." Again, THIS is reality. And if we stop there, it's pretty dang depressing. But what makes us unique is that God loves much. Crazy love!  Psalm 103:10-14 says this:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As as father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

If there is ANYTHING in our lives more important than His love for us or our love for Him, it will fade away. No matter how well thought out your life may be, no matter what treasures you have laid up for yourselves, no matter how much education you can complete, no matter what job you have, house you have, car you drive, city you live in, or how fat your wallet, the one and only thing that lasts is His love. An investment in His love is the only thing that yields lasting results.

So, I guess the questions I'm asking myself today much are you depending on Jesus? How much are you relying on the things of this world to bring happiness? How much time are you spending telling people how much you love much God loves them? How committed are you to finding peace and Life only in Him?

To close, here is a Facebook status that my friend Sandra Collins wrote about Diana. It was about the most perfectly worded thing I have ever read describing her. I'll close with sharing this. Please pray for the Reed family...Wayne, Diana, Eric and Kevin.

The skies joined the grieving today and soaked the ground, as Diana Reed began to leave us. Diana was like Jacob, Job, the OT prophets, and the Psalmists. She wrestled with God, she argued and shouted, she asked where He was, she yelled, "How long?" and she soaked her pillows with tears. Yet, just like all of them, she did not quit believing. And though she was so tired, so exhausted, she did not quit serving.

Her brilliance amazed me. She was an avid reader who devoured books of all kinds (after opening and smelling them) and wrestled with the content. She had a quick, loud, and hearty laugh. When she was in a class, she was an active participant--responding to what was being said, nodding, shaking her head, smiling, frowning, not taking her eyes off the speaker.

While I have not been one of those close by her bed, spending the night, talking to her and hoping she could hear them, I have been among some of her innumerable friends and acquaintances. In every case, the first word spoken has been, "Unbelievable!" And that is how we all feel. What has transpired in the past week is absolutely unbelievable.

***update: Diana transitioned from this life to the next at about 2:30pm today. Our hearts break for Wayne and the boys. I will miss her laugh and heart. I'm thankful that I knew her.