Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Put on your thinking cap for just a moment as I tell you a little story:

On the northern tip of South America is a country called Venezuela. You may be familiar with Venezuela due to the rhetoric of their President, Hugo Chavez. You may also know Venezuela for their oil industry. The gasoline at your local Citgo gas station comes from Venezuelan oil.

Beyond these little known facts are some more important facts about Venezuela. It is a beautiful country filled with some of the kindest and most generous people on the face of the earth. In November 2006, a small team from our church went to minister to some of the people in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. While we were there our hearts were touched by the joy and love and grace of the wonderful people of Venezuela.

But that isn't all you need to know. The people of this country constitute the most secular country in South America with over 40 percent of the people having no church affiliation. Furthermore, before 1996, there was no United Methodist presence in Venezuela.

But things are changing! Through the prayers and ministry of United Methodists in North Georgia and beyond, there is now a growing United Methodist presence in Venezuela. As of last August (2007), there are over 26 United Methodist congregations in Venezuela. In that same month, they also held their first Annual Conference and elected their first Bishop (Perez). The church is rapidly growing among the faithful Christians of Venezuela.

The things we have and take for granted as Christians in the United States are things the Christians of Venezuela desperately need. Take for instance a seminary where pastors can be trained. Here in Georgia, I can drive to a number of seminaries in less than an hour. In Venezuela, United Methodist pastors ride a bus for 24 hours to attend the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. A seminary that started with only a vision from United Methodist leaders in North Georgia now has over 100 students enrolled. These Venezuelan pastors who work a "secular" job along with shepherding their congregations give up five weeks each year to come to Barquisimeto to the seminary where they hungrily receive training for ministry.

So where is all of this going? Well, I'm glad you asked. Allow me to ask you to do a few things that will help this seminary and the growing United Methodist Church in Venezuela.

1. Read more about this ministry by logging on to www.venezuelaforchrist.blogspot.com.
2. Pray for the young church in Venezuela.
3. Consider helping the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela purchase a permanent site.

Presently, 60 students cramp themselves inside a small room to take classes...many of them sharing seats. The seminary has found a perfect site to house and feed students with more than adequate classrooms. This site will also be used to house missionaries and mission teams from the United States. They can purchase this site for $150,000. I know that sounds like a great deal of money, and it is! But maybe you know someone who can provide it. If so, send them to the website I listed for you above. There are instructions there on how they can give. Thanks for reading, praying, and giving!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Learning From A Dog

Our "best friend" at the Clark household is a three year old miniature Schnauzer named Chester. While being quite high-strung and rambunctious, he is also a very gentle and loving dog. He loves to play with our two children, and our children love to play fetch and chase with him.

Like most dogs, Chester sits attentively near the table when we eat our meals. While we don't normally feed him scraps from the table, my son likes to sneak him a bite occasionally when mom and dad aren't looking. I have never made any spiritual connections with Chester's attentive waiting at the table, but the other day I ran across a poem in Christian Century magazine by Rodney Clapp. The title is "Lessons in prayer, from a dog." Read this poem and see what you think.

He assumes his still posture
two feet from the table.
He is not grabby,
his tongue is not hanging out,
he is quiet.

He wants to leap,
he wants to snap up
meat and blood.
You can tell.
But what he does is sit
as the gods
his masters and mistresses
fork steak and potatoes
into their mouths.

He is expectant
but not presumptuous.
He can wait.
He can live with disappointment.
He can abide frustration
and suffer suspense.

He watches
for signals,
he listens for calls
of his name from above.

At hints that
he may be gifted
with a morsel,
he intensifies his
already rapt concentration,
he looks his god
in the eye,
but humbly,
sure of his innocence
in his need,
if his need only.

On the (0ften rare) occasions
when gifts are laid on his tongue,
he takes them whole,
then instantly resumes
the posture of attention,
beseeching, listening, alert,
the posture of hard-won faith
that will take no for an answer,
yet ever and again hopefully
return to the questioning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Little Sayings

The little boy in the picture that you see on this blog is my two year old son, Miles. In the past few months, Miles has become quite verbose. He picks up words and phrases left and right often not knowing how to use them correctly. I was commenting to my wife that some of his "little sayings" would make great slogans on a t-shirt. For your reading pleasure, here are a few of Miles' most frequent "little sayings."

"DON'T BE UGLY!" (My personal favorite)







What are the "little sayings" that people remember most about you? Our words and our use of language defines us in many ways. The writer of Proverbs says, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (16:24)

Take some time to consider your words. Are they pleasant? Do they encourage, uplift, and inspire others? Are they sweet to the soul of the listener?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Matters?

If you should stumble upon this humble blog, I have a request of you. Send me an e-mail. Through the genius of cyberspace, let me know you've read this blog or seen this blog. "Why take the time?", you might ask. If for no other reason, teach this preacher a lesson about relevance.

Well over a year ago, I started writing this blog. It was the "hip" thing to do...a way to communicate with people who I might never be able to communicate with otherwise. I wrote and I wrote, much the same as I write and write for sermons, weekly church newsletters, classes, etc. But like my old-school, snail-mail newsletter, I felt that my blog was going in the trash before it ever touched the conscious mind of any reader. Thus, the last time I posted anything on this blog was back in September of last year.

You may be a church member from Calhoun, Georgia who clicked on this blog wondering if I had actually updated it. You may be reading this from somewhere across the country or across the world. Whoever you are and for whatever reason you are reading, I dare you, send me an e-mail and teach me a lesson about relevance.

Is the internet a means for me to communicate what I believe so strongly to be relevant and life-changing? Is it in-fact a way to communicate with people I might otherwise never meet or see? I am convinced that preachers like me need to communicate an already relevant message in more relevant ways, and I am just wondering if this is relevant.

One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Psalm 4:6. The writer says, "There are many who say, 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'" I want to show the world "some good" and point to where I believe "good" resides. To me, that is what matters. Is this blog a way to share some good? Does this blog matter? Go ahead, I dare you, send me an e-mail or at the very least, write a comment.