Why I Study the Presidents

When I was a child, my favorite volume of the World Book Encyclopedia was “P.” It was not because I was fascinated with that letter or that I felt I need to study the platypus. I was drawn to that particular volume because it was there that all the presidents, at least through our mid-1960s version, were listed and discussed.

In that volume, I could see what presidents like Buchanan and Chester A. Arthur looked like. (As an aside, I was never tempted to grow muttonchops like Arthur, but he did make them his own.) I learned about the presidency and how it had evolved through the years.

I was fascinated with the presidency, and that fascination has only grown through the years. Many of my friends know that Election Day, to me, is bigger than Super Bowl Sunday. I will sit back and watch the returns and analyze what may or may not happen. As well, my favorite books to read are histories and biographies on the presidents and the time they served. For my money, you cannot go wrong with Ronald White, Jr.’s “A. Lincoln” or David McCullough’s “John Adams.” Continue reading “Why I Study the Presidents”

Sunday Sermon: By Serving Others

Back in 2009, I had an opportunity that was an unbelievable privilege. During the season of Lent, I was invited to preach at my hometown church, Perry Memorial United Methodist in Shady Spring, W.Va. I quickly accepted and was humbled by the chance to preach from the same pulpit where some of my favorite preachers stood.

As I look back, I remember feeling some pressure and a lot of temptation leading up to the service. Keep in mind this was the same congregation that saw me running up and down the aisles, stealing microphones as a child, and doing a bad impersonation of a singer during the Christmas cantata. They knew me and I knew them. I felt a lot of pressure to preach an easy message, one that would be easily received by the congregation and would allow me to maintain the “hometown boy does good” status I had earned.

The passage I preached from was not easy. It was from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, where Paul speaks of the foolishness of the cross. The message I preached became a message that would serve as a centering point for how I try to serve. What I said was that the Gospel and the cross breaks down the barriers we often create and welcomes all people. In a way, that message set up how I have tried to preach ever since. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: By Serving Others”

Living in Hope Not Fear

On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt stood in front of an assembled crowd at the U.S. Capitol and took the oath of office to become the 32nd president of the United States. The situation he inherited from outgoing President Herbert Hoover was overwhelming. The economy was still sputtering in the depths of the Great Depression and the stock market crash of 1929. People truly believed the country’s best days were behind it and that the country’s economic despair was the new normal.

There were a lot of reasons for people to have fear. Roosevelt, though, refused to let fear define him.

In his inaugural address, Roosevelt spoke words that would become one of the most quoted lines from his 12-year administration. He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Powerful words to speak in the midst of an economic crisis, yet words that offered an expression of hope during a time of fear. Continue reading “Living in Hope Not Fear”

God Needs You … We Need You

They say the church is no longer needed today. That it has long served its purpose.

They say the church is just an ancient thing. That its teachings and beliefs are no longer relevant.

They say the church’s mission is no longer worth it. That no one is paying attention anymore, so the church would be better off just not trying.

Do you really believe any of that? Continue reading “God Needs You … We Need You”