Wednesday, December 3, 2008


This past Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and the first Sunday in the Christian Year.

Advent comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning "Coming". In this season we celebrate Christ's first coming to us in the Nativity, and anticipate his coming in final victory when he brings the Kingdom of God to its fullness in the end of this age. As such, it is a season of tension, a season of "already" but "not yet".

The season is made up of the four Sundays prior to Christmas. The central character is John the Baptist, and the liturgical color is purple. During these Sundays we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. I like to think of it as a sister season to Lent. In Lent we prepare ourselves for the joy and celebration of the Resurrection, in Advent we prepare ourselves for the joy and celebration of Christmas. Both seasons are seasons of preparation, not celebration.

Loving God, we give you thanks for these days of preparation. Cleanse our minds and hearts. Help us to prepare in the desert of our lives a highway for the Savior. Enable us to remain faithful disciples as we live in the "in-between" times of your first advent and your coming in final victory. This we ask in the name of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Song for a Winter's Night

What you may not know about me is that I am an incurable romantic. Tonight is an unseasonably cold night for October in Atlanta; the lows are supposed to hover around freezing. I made a big pot of homemade soup and lit a fire. As I was laying the fire I thought of some words from a Gordon Lightfoot song from long ago - one of the greatest love songs around as far as I am concerned.

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The morning light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you
And to be once again with with you
To view the video click Song for a Winter's Night

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jim & Jeff's Big Adventure

This afternoon about 4:40, Lord willing, Jeff and I will take off from Atlanta-Hartsfield on our way to the Czech Republic. We have a two hour layover in Amsterdam and should land at Prague Ruzyne Airport tomorrow morning at 10:45 local time. The Czech Republic is at GMT +4 which puts it six hours ahead of Eastern US time. I'll post when I can, but I am not sure when that will be right now. Higgins and Jernigan traveling together - pray for the Czech Republic!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm Back!

I have been remiss in updating this blog recently, but that will soon change. This Friday afternoon Jeff Jernigan and I leave for the Czech Republic. We will be visiting our sister congregation in Jihlava where I will preach on Sunday, then we will both be teaching for the International Leadership Institute Central Europe National Conference. I will be posting about our travels and experiences.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What I'm Reading

I love to read. I usually have several books going at a time - some for work, some for professional growth, some for fun. So, here's what I'm reading now:

12 Keys to an Effective Church. This is actually a "re-read". I used Ken Callahan's material when I was the pastor at Haygood to get our visioning kick-started. It was great for that church, so now we're using it at McEachern. We are also reading 12 Keys to an Effective Church Leaders Guide.

5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase. You've heard me mention this book in my sermons and the Senior Pastor letter. Allen and I will be preaching from this book next Fall. The five practices are Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service and Extravagant generosity. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it yourself.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Yes, I'm a Dave Ramsey freak. I read his Financial Peace Revisited last Fall. My kids hate riding in the car with me during the afternoons when his show is on because it's all I'll listen to. We'll be starting Financial Peace University at the church this Fall. Yes, that's the name of a book, as well as a website. Gordon Atkinson began writing (and writing well) on his personal blog. The essays have been collected and published. This book was a gift from my friend and colleague, Dr. Phil Schroeder. It's a great read.

What are you reading?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

James A. Hayes

Pam's Dad, James Hayes, died this past week. We spent most of the week in North Carolina with the family. I was honored to be asked to participate in his service. I thought I would share his obituary with you. As usual, this obit barely skims the surface of who he was, and all he accomplished.

Mr. James Addison Hayes, Jr., 87, of Rockwell, NC left his infirmities behind and was given a new body with Christ on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. James was born August 16, 1920 in Guilford County, NC the son of the late James Addison Hayes, Sr. and Ila Black Hayes. James was educated in the Thomasville City schools, a Veteran of World War II serving in the US Army Air Force. James had worked for Carolina Underwear, Inc. in Davidson County, then transferred to Rowan Industries as Plant Manager and retired in 1986 with 50 years of service. He was a member of the Rockwell United Methodist Church, former Sunday School Teacher, Lay Leader and President of the Men's Club. James was past President of the Rockwell Civitans and a former member of the Rockwell Town Board, and a former member of Peeler Livengood Wood American Legion Post # 448.

Survivors; wife, Bernice Wood Hayes, married in 1943, sons; Jim Hayes, and wife Susan, of Concord, NC, Joe Hayes and wife Jackie of Marietta, Georgia, Ken Hayes and wife Debbie of Granite Quarry, NC, daughter; Pam Higgins and husband Jim of Powder Springs, Georgia, brother; Frank Hayes and wife Judy of Charlotte, sisters; Marian Yarbrough and Helen Bray of Thomasville, NC, grandchildren; Mike Hayes and wife Kelly, Chris Hayes and wife Summer, Scott Hayes, Allison Hayes, Bo Higgins, Chris Higgins, Carley Higgins, great grandchildren; Trey Hayes, Davis Hayes, Addison Hayes, Jack Hayes and Parker Hayes.

Visitation: 6:00-8:00 PM Thursday at Powles Funeral Home, Rockwell, NC and the remainder of the time the family will be at the home of a son, Ken Hayes of Granite Quarry, NC.

Funeral Services: 2:00 PM Friday at Rockwell United Methodist Church, conducted by Rev. John Blalock, Pastor and assisting will be Rev. Bill Curry of Winston Salem and Dr. Jim Higgins. Burial will follow at Brookhill Memorial Gardens, Rockwell, NC with Military Graveside Rites by the North Carolina Army National Guard and the Rowan County Military Honor Guard.

In Lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Rockwell United Methodist Church, PO Box 337, Rockwell, NC 28138 or to East Cobb United Methodist Church, 2325 Roswell Road, Marietta, Georgia 30062

Powles Funeral Home is assisting the Hayes family.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Hymnal

Over the past few months I have been talking with you about the possibility of General Conference beginning the process of a new hymnal for The United Methodist Church. I gave you the opportunity a while back to be part of that process by participating in a survey. Nearly 20,000 responded to that survey and according to The United Methodist News Service the following was discovered:

The surveys revealed that the top three favorites in the UM Hymnal are “Amazing Grace,” “Here I Am, Lord” and “How Great Thou Art.” The top three favorite hymns from The Faith We Sing are “The Summons,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “As the Deer.” The top hymn (currently in the hymnal) requested to include in a new hymnal is “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” Seventy-five percent of respondents would like to have healing services in the hymnal. Forty-three percent want more praise choruses in the hymnal; 34% do not. 28% prefer to sing lyrics on a screen; 70% prefer to use a hymnal or songbook. Seventy percent are comfortable using male-only language for God, while 25% are comfortable using female language for God and 42% are comfortable using male or female language for God.

General Conference is meeting for the next week and a half. I'll let you know if they decided to go ahead and start work on a new hymnal. If they do, do not expect to see it for another 5-10 years.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cadet Ball

It has been many years since I attended a high school dance, but on February 29th, I did. My son is a cadet in a NJROTC program, and they asked me to be the keynote speaker. I'm not sure if their first choice backed out, or if they just couldn't find anyone else to do it, so I agreed.

I have been speaking to a good number of community groups lately, including Civitans and Rotary. I'm scheduled for Lion's Club and a few other groups in the near future. I always jump at the chance to get McEachern's name out to the public. Anytime our leaders or staff are associated with worthwhile community events is a plus for our congregation as far as I am concerned.

So, it was time to dust off the dress blues and speak to a group of high schoolers who had no interest in hearing me speak! They are a great group of value driven young men and women, and I was proud to talk with them, and even dance a little bit.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Atlanta Tornado


Updates will be posted to:
Saturday, March 15, 2008 – 5:15 p.m.Rev. Mike SelleckI’m writing to give readers a quick update of where things stand with the storms yesterday and today. Please note: This data is time sensitive and reflects what has been passed to us at this point.Friday Night Damage--UPDATE From the daylight photos on the news, we can see there is going to be a good amount of cleanup in the downtown area of Atlanta. Prior to checkpoints being set up, Associate Connectional Ministries Director, Rev. Shari Rates was inside the storm corridor early this morning taking photos and assessing the damage. She will be providing us with personal accounts of what will be needed in the days and weeks ahead. Rev. Byron Thomas of Central UMC reports that, despite the fact they are very close to the Georgia Dome, they only received power outages and no wind damage. Saturday Damage UPDATE--Saturday 5:15pm Violent storms continue even at the time of this email. The folks at Aragon UMC were caught in the midst of their Easter egg hunt, but took refuge inside the building--all are fine. There is reportedly a heavy amount of damage in Cedartown. Due to power outages, District Superintendent, Jacquie Rose Tucker, is still trying to learn what the status of things are in that area. Dr. Warren Lathem, District Superintendent of the Atlanta Marietta Distinct, has heard no report of damages in his area.Accessibility UPDATE--Saturday 5:15pm Conference Disaster Relief Committee Chairperson, Mr. Mike Yoder, is on the job. He and a few of additional committee members are in contact with Georgia Emergency Management as well as FEMA and are being apprised of any changes or requests for assistance. According to officials, “all volunteers are being asked to stand down and stay away especially in downtown Atlanta." They request as few people in the area until the storms pass and assessments can be made! Much of the Atlanta area clean up from last night is being done by qualified and properly equipped city crews; car removal, tree cutting, power restoration, rubble pick-up, etc. What is needed--UPDATE--Saturday 5:15pm At the moment we’re asking that you simply be prepared to assist when notification of assistance is issued early next week.Trained crews of UM “early response” volunteers are at the ready if needed. If you have not been trained in early response, please don’t make plans to just show up and see if you can help. One of the lessons from the Katrina and Rita storms is that untrained and unequipped volunteers often become a secondary disaster in an already chaotic situation. Significant steps have been taken to keep random groups of unqualified (untrained as first responders) teams out of a disaster any disaster area.Remember that our strength as a denomination has always been long term recovery – helping people put their lives back together over the months ahead, long after television crews, helicopters, and photographers have moved on. If you are not ready for “early response” work, know there will be many opportunities for all types of volunteers to assist in the recovery phases.If you need to report damage, heed this process: Pastors -- call your D.S.D.S.’s -- call Mike SelleckMike Selleck – call appropriate Disaster Committee folks.(If you’re interested in ‘early response’ or ‘recovery’ training for future disasters, log onto the Conference web site, drill down to Disaster Response, and make plans to get you and a team of folks qualified.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Finances and Tithing

I did not realize what would happen as a result of our sermon on giving yesterday.

A little background for you who were not there: During Lent I am preaching a series on the spiritual disciplines. The first week in Lent the sermon was on Bible reading and study. Subsequent weeks were on prayer and worship. Yesterday the sermon was on giving and the biblical standard of giving 10% of our income, or the tithe.

At the end of the sermon I said that many of us are not able to tithe because of the debt in which we have placed ourselves. I have taught my children that if they give God 10%, save 10%, live on the other 80% and do not borrow money, they will not only never have financial problems - they will be rich.

I have been inundated with requests by church members to meet regarding their personal finances. I am not a financial expert by any means. However, I can refer you to two programs that we use at McEachern and that I endorse wholeheartedly.

The first is Crown Financial Ministries. You can find more information about them here.

The second is Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. If you are in debt up to your eyeballs, need help setting up a budget, and want to be inspired by others who have done what you feel you can never do, this is the website for you. I am a big Dave Ramsey fan. We will be offering his Financial Peace University here at McEachern starting in the fall. You can start now by following his baby steps and listening to him on 640 WGST from 3-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Most of all, I want our congregation to find real financial peace. It does not come from following our culture's way of going into debt to buy "stuff". It comes from what John Wesley instilled in the early Methodists: "make all you can, save all you can, so you can give all you can". That's true peace, and abundant joy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dinner Tonight

Those of you who know me know that I love to cook. Last Sunday was "she who must be obeyed"'s birthday.The problem was, one of my children, a girl-child was skiing in West, by god, Virginia, and I had to preach three worship services and then head to the mountains for a week for my rich uncle in DC. So, tonight, we finally did the birthday dinner and presents. The guest of honor was a nice standing rib roast that I had a buddy of mine cut for me. A little EVOO, some fresh ground pepper and kosher salt and it was ready to go.

Next was the sear. I got the egg (Big Green Egg)up to about a million degrees and seared the roast on each side. After that I let the roast rest for 20 minutes while the Egg cooled to a reasonable 350 degrees

Then it was back to the Egg where I took it to an internal temperature of 120 degrees, tented it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. After that it was a sharp knife and the following:

This was all served up with some extra small English peas that I had seasoned well. I also did some great mashed potatoes. They were Yukon golds that I boiled after cubing them. I took a head of garlic, sliced off the top, drizzled with EVOO and roasted for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven. A little heavy whipping cream, a stick of butter, some salt and pepper, and BAM!, fluffy garlic whipped taters.

After a week away from cooking this is as good as it gets!

Happy birthday Pam!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Lenten Experiment: Bible Study

Today marks the first Sunday in the Lenten season. We began the season last Wednesday with a great Ash Wednesday service. During Lent I am preaching on the spiritual disciplines. During my sermon this morning I mentioned several study bibles and one "looser" translation.
The looser translation that I mentioned is The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene Petersen. You can buy one of the cheaper editions at Cokesbury (the retail arm of The United Methodist Publishing House) at
The two study Bibles I metioned are The New Oxford Annotated Bible This is the bible I used for study for many years, and I use a leather bound copy for preaching. However, since the HarperCollins Study Bible has been published that is the bible I have used for study. You can order it at
Most of these bibles are also found at your local bookseller. You can find nicer versions of these bibles (hardbound or leatherbound) at Cokesbury, Amazon, or your local book store.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's Been a While

Yes, it's been a while since I have blogged - but I have several excellent excuses!

I have been doing a little traveling lately for some continuing education. The week of January 21st I was in Orlando, a great place to be in January. I was attending The Large Church Initiative National Conference. Each year 600 or so of the Senior Pastors and staff of our largest United Methodist Churches gather together to share best practices and learn from some of the best minds in our denomination. I was able to spend time with Gil Rendle, author of When Moses Met Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations. Gil used to work for the Alban Institute and has great insights on leading a large congregation. I was also able to hear from Dr. Gary Mason about the work he is doing in East Belfast Ireland. Gary recently received an award from the Queen for his work in ending interfaith violence in Belfast. I also heard from Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, about his work in overcoming hunger and poverty. I attended workshops on Implementing Your Vision with Wesley Habits, Human Resource Management, and a Senior Pastor's Affinity Group. All in all, it was a most worthwhile week.

Last week I was in Alpharetta at the International Leadership Institute Training. The goal of the International Leadership Institute (ILI) is to accelerate the spread of the Gospel around the world by training and mobilizing leaders of leaders to reach their nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Strategically selected leaders receive advanced training in leadership, evangelism, and multiplication. McEachern will be hosting one of the ILI conferences in Venezuela this Fall.

I should be around for a while and have more time to blog. One of the things I will be sharing with you soon is our Vision Forum. I'm excited about it, and hope you will be as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


For the second time this week Atlanta has had snow! Of course it would have been more fun if the kids had gotten out of school on Thursday. But the roads were clear, and the buses rolled, so it was off to school they went.
It would have been better for us clergy types if the snow had not come on Saturday. Many churches have already cancelled services for tomorrow. Ironically, the bulletin paragraphs that I wrote were about our snow policy!
In a nutshell here's the policy: if the school district cancels school, all church activities are cancelled and the church offices are closed. If it snows on Sunday, we will still have services, but we strongly recommend you stay home if the roads are unsafe.
I live on the church campus, so safety is not an issue for me. I will conduct 8:15, 9:30, and 11:00 services for all who are intrepid enough to brave the elements. It may be an unusual service depending on what staff members are able to make it in.
This morning we sent out an email to over 2,000 people letting them know of our plans for tomorrow. Several outgoing voice mail greetings at the church have been changed as well. The church website should also have an update this afternoon that will let you know of our plans.
If you can't make it in the morning, I encourage you to join together with any family members you may have around you for prayer, and little Bible reading, and maybe a hymn or two. Then enjoy your family and neighbors and the beauty of the snow!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Bible

Abingdon Press is developing a new Wesley Study Bible that will be available next year. It's time now, however, to choose the final name for the Bible. Abingdon would like your opinion on three possible titles listed in the survey found in the link below.

Abindon wants to have feedback from a wide variety of people, so they have requested pastors and staff members to have as many laypeople complete the survey as possible. The survey will take only a couple of minutes to complete, and they would love to have a great response from church professionals and lay people alike. I thought I would do my part by posting their request on my blog.

To start the survey, please click on the link below.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What's On My Ipod

Tonight at our Wednesday Night Supper I was talking about running with my Ipod shuffle. One of our members said, "That'd be a good thing for your blog, 'What's on My Ipod'".

Now, what you need to know is that I am entirely obsessive-compulsive. I recieved a $50 gift card for ITunes last year for Christmas while I was in Iraq. So, an entire year ago I decided that when I returned to the US I would use the card, over a period of time, to catch up on what was "hot" in the music world in America. So the following list represents my attempt to remain relevant to the youth of our community. I use the shuffle while running, which was a big "no-no" in Iraq, but I did it anyway!

What's on my ipod (at least right now)

Bubbly - Colbie Caillat

It's Not over - Daughtry

Home - Daughtry

Over You - Daughtry

Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie

Paralyzer - Finger Eleven

How to Save a Life - The Fray

The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stephani

Waiting for the World to Change - John Mayer

Pictures of You - The Last Goodnight

First Time - Lifehouse

Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5

Wake Up Call - Maroon 5

How Far We've Come - Matchbox Twenty

Say It Right - NellyFurtado

If Everyone Cared - Nickleback

Who Knew - Pink

Little Wonders - Rob Thomas

Into the Night - Santana

Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol

Apologize - Timbaland

There's no telling what will be on my ipod in the next few weeks. The terrible thing is that I didn't get the Ipod nano for Christmas that I wanted. I would have settled for the 4 Gig, no need for the 8 gig (like my daughter got!). But I'm not hurt. . .much.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolution

My New Year's Resolution is to start back to running and get back in shape.

For those of you who know me well it may surprise you that I have not been running. Running became a passion for me over thirteen years ago. At my peak I had run 7 marathons and countless 5 and 10k's and half-marathons. Three and a half years ago I began to slow down, and was unable to run as far as I had in the past. I could still click off seven minute miles, but that was much slower than I had run in the past and I could not sustain it for the 10-20 miles that I had at my peak.

My annual stress echo cardiogram showed why - my mitral valve was failing. Within a week of diagnosis I had open-heart surgery to repair the valve. I thought I would be back up and running in a matter of weeks. The truth is that I did not even feel human for 11 months. But I started from scratch and worked my way up to 12 miles before being called to active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I continued to run in Iraq, but that was somewhat counter productive. I would be a few miles into a run, and mortars would start falling. You can't really get into the groove if you have to stop and run for cover every few miles. Then I had a physical, and discovered I had high levels of CO2 in my bloodstream. Where I served had exhaust from generators, trucks, aircraft, and, oh yeah, an open burn pit the size of New Jersey. My doc suggested I run inside on a treadmill.

So, I'm starting over from scratch. This afternoon Chris and I went out for a mile run. Not far, and not fast, but my first run in three months. My goal is to start slow and easy and build from there. Remembering the acronym SAM (specific, achievable, and measurable) for goals I will set my first goal as the completion of a 10K by this spring. I hope to be able to run it fast enough to be seeded in this year's Peachtree Road Race.

I'm telling you this so you can hold me accountable - that's a good spiritual word. So every time you see me, ask me if I'm keeping my New Year's Resolution!

Tell me yours and I'll be your accountability partner.