Friday, December 9, 2016

The World in NYC

Sylvanus - reaching Nepalese in NYC
I have been blessed in so many ways in my 53 plus years of life. Today I am sitting in a coffee shop in NYC doing some writing, prepping for meetings with some of our partners in P2 Missions and reflecting. Maybe it is the Christmas season. Maybe it is that time of year when 9 years ago my mom was running towards heaven as she battled cancer. Maybe it is just that I am a melancholy sap at times. Whatever the reason, I find myself sitting at a table for 6 with 4 other people I have never met before and likely will never see again. Some will engage in conversation while others drink their coffee, scour their cellphone for information or connection, and others simply have other thing on their minds or jobs to do.

People from around the world are here. Glancing through the coffee shop I see Colombians, Nepalese, Chinese, Persian and many others who my untrained eye cannot really identify. All people with stories, families, jobs, hobbies, hurts and sorrows. And people who are loved by God Himself. I am here to connect with many who serve these people through all kinds of ministries. Men and women who have given their lives to serve and reach the people of NYC with the gospel of Jesus Christ. People are here because they love Jesus and they love the people of NYC and I am honored to be a infinitesimal part of their work. The longer I am here the more I see God at work all over this place and I am grateful for the churches that will partner with the planters here in this great city.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  John 3:16 -  The Message

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Election 2016 Postpartum (Actually I Don't Miss the Ads)

Wow. Let me start by saying that I did not see this outcome prior to some of the exit polls on Tuesday evening last week. I actually thought that Mrs. Clinton would win with about a 3% margin (48-45ish). Actually it looks like she has won the popular vote but obviously was defeated in the electoral college. That has happened before where a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election due to the electoral vote. And just a reminder that the US is a Republic and not a democracy. The simple explanation of the differences is that a republic is a representative government ruled by law (the US Constitution) while a democracy is a government ruled by the majority. Here is a list:

1824 - John Quincy Adams
1876 - Rutherford B. Hayes
1888 - Benjamin Harrison
1960 - John F. Kennedy (disputed)
2000 - George W. Bush

I am not a political expert. I decided early on in this presidential race that I was going to abstain from making political comments on social media. I think that is best practice for me. I also will add that I was not able to vote for either of the major party candidates due to my own personal convictions. I do agree more with one party platform over the other, but I do not believe that either or perfect by any stretch.

I have friends who are legitimately scared by some of the things that have been said by President elect Trump and I have friends who would have been legitimately scared had Mrs. Clinton been elected. I hurt for those who are scared. I am choosing to get more involved in making this a safer place to live for everyone. I hope that I will be viewed as someone who is trying to mend relationships and tear down walls that only cause division.

And I firmly believe that we can love each other and actually like one another even though we have differing views. I have been asked if I think that God has clearly spoken about the direction of our country. I personally believe that God has been speaking for many years and too many times I have been distracted or refused to listen. I believe that God is more concerned about His Son being lifted up and glorified and I know that it is His desire that none should perish. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 Let's not lose sight of what God has called us as believers to be involved in with our lives.

I know that as a believer that God has called me to join Him -  The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19

I pray that I will not be guilty of loving America more than I love God or more than I love people. And I mean all people. Not just the ones I want to kind of love. I am grateful for the freedoms I experience as a citizen of this great nation. I am keenly aware that I can also make my rights as a citizen idols as well.

I commit to pray for President-elect Trump the same way that I committed to pray for President Obama eight years ago and renewed that commitment when he was re-elected in 2012.
You and I may disagree on issues. I really think that is okay. What is not okay is for me to withhold love and friendship toward you because I disagree with you.

I am praying for our nation. I am praying for you. I am praying for me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

These Kids!

I signed up to work with little kids at church once a quarter almost 5 years ago. It was a little bait and switch because the once a quarter materialized as once a month but I digress. At first I was a little intimidated by these 3-5 year olds but now I am just resigned to the fact that they have it figured out for the most part. Sure they are young; they at times don't think through the consequences of their actions; they might have an accident in their pants; they might be challenged with a "mine" attitude, but THEY TEACH ME SO STINKING MUCH!
Not actual kids in the Owl class.

Sunday morning was the final day of our church's Disciple Now and Sondra and I hosted 7 young ladies that were a joy to have in our home for the weekend. I "helped" serve pancakes to the entire youth group (if you count trying to convince students to eat crazy amounts of pancakes as help that is). During our church's worship hour I headed to our Owl room which is made up of 5-year-olds and yesterday it was a room full. Sixteen to be exact. I worked with another lady and our lesson all centered around "rebuilding the wall" and working together to get it done. (Draw your own conclusions on the timing of this lesson.)

Our Owl classroom is made up of boys and girls, many different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, skin tones, physical and mental challenges and differences, and socio-economic strata. Sixteen totally different people vying for some of the same space, toys, snacks and resources. One of our students is physically challenged and not as mobile as some of the others in the room. There are some limitations in performing some functions but I wish you had been in the room to witness what happened and usually happens among these kids. Here is my limited observation:

1. They don't care that they all do not look alike.
2. When someone cannot complete a task, others come to help without being asked.
3. Sometimes kids want the same toy and an "adult" has to intervene.
4. Water and goldfish can be anything you want them to be using one's imagination.
5. If you need me to help you eat those goldfish, I can help feed you or just take them as my own (with your permission of course or if I see you looking away).
6. Sometimes there is pouting when things do not go one's way.
7. Hugs, fist bumps, hair musses, laughter, correction and grace are all needed at various times and are all happening at the same time. Most of the time I am the recipient of that grace from the kids.
8. Getting outside for even a short time during the morning is good for everyone! Sunshine, fresh air and running around like crazy are good for the soul (and the complexion and attitude).
9. Sit down and listen. Kids want to talk. They want your attention. Sometimes the best lessons learned are not among the kids but from the kids to this "old guy who plays and teaches us" as I am becoming affectionately known.

One of the most beautiful pictures from the morning (and there were many) was a boy coming across to help a girl eat her goldfish because she was having trouble making that happen. He fed her everyone of those goldfish.

Here is what I was reminded of - And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

I am always tired those afternoons after learning from these kids. But it is a good tired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two Months Sabbatical

Actually the title is just a clever attempt to say, "I have been remiss/lazy in posting a blog post." I have good intentions, honestly, I do but then, well, I just don't blog.

Our family is doing well. We have had the opportunity to spend time with both sets of kids and that is always delightful. Morgan and Wil have moved back to Jackson, TN (2 hours west of us) for Wil to be in the accelerated nursing program at Union. Morgan took a job as an enrollment counselor for Union and she is enjoying that work. She has traveled to Texas and Colorado the past couple of weeks working college fairs and Wil has been fortunate enough to be with her part of the time in both locations. Wil is also working part-time at Starbucks so we have been the recipients of some good coffee.

Shelbi and Mark are doing well. Mark is training for Ironman NC that races in about 3 weeks and has come down with some kind of lung funk but hopes to be on the mend soon. Shelbi is in DC this week as part of her work and part of her certification process too. We spent some time with them this past weekend in Knoxville. Thanks to the generosity of some good Florida Gators fans we were able to go to the UT/UF game. Great seats in the Gators section and UT pulled off a come from behind victory that we enjoyed with almost 103,000 other fans in Neyland Stadium. It was pretty crazy that second half. We were also able to spend time and the night (actually a couple) with our good friends, Ronald and Tami Kooch. Ronald is a huge UT fan and needless to say he was nervous and pretty excited as well. We did sneak in a little ESPN College Game Day too.

Here is a shot also of all four of us at the game. Notice the band in the background. Sondra said that she was playing trumpet that day. It was kind of loud to say the least, but big fun. Thanks to Clark and Patti for the tickets. I think they saw that they were that close to the band and decided to "bless" us with those seats. ;-) We had a great time. Sondra and I commented many times how grateful we are to have the kids that we do and the friends that we do. This is a pretty sweet season in life right now. We wish that both sets of kids lived a little closer but we are committed to making sure that we get together as often as we can.

Sondra's mom enjoyed some good time with Bronwyn and her family about a month ago. They were kind enough to run her through Bolivar and allow her to catch up with some of her friends in MO. Joyce is experiencing some good health (a few aches and pains but she had another birthday on Sept. 9) and seems to enjoy living in TN. We are glad to have her close. She is learning the iPad so do not be surprised if you get a random Skype video call or an email once in awhile.

My dad is doing okay. He has some lung issues that are a pain and he is slowing down some. I was able to fly up about a month ago, spend a couple of days and see a Royals game with him and my brother. It was a good time. I did lose my Uncle John a couple of weeks ago. As you think of it, pray for my cousins, Mike and Barb and their families and my Aunt Corrine and dad.

For our NZ family and friends, we are headed into fall so the temps are finally cooling. This will be our second fall this year since we were able to experience some fall with you in beautiful NZ back in March.

Sondra started a new job about 5 weeks ago. She had been at the high school almost 5 years and enjoyed most of it but an opportunity came available at our church in the financial area. She agreed to take that job at the church and seems to be really enjoying it. She is a very smart girl, loves process and procedure and this job is suited for her.

My work is going well with some new projects being started in Colorado that I am excited about coordinating. I have some friends in CO that I will be hitting up soon (that's you Tim and Kevin if you are reading). I have had the opportunity to preach quite a bit the past two months but that seems to be coming to a close. I always enjoy and am honored when someone trusts me to share God's Word.

I am not training for any races currently but have decided that I will do a 70.3 next year as well as a
full Triathlon in 2017. Right now it looks like Florida 70.3 in April and then Ironman Louisville in October. I have enjoyed the down time but am looking forward to a training schedule again. Here is a pic from August when Sondra and I were at the Cedars of Lebanon Sprint Tri. She really is the most beautiful girl in the world.

As per usual, I am committing to blogging more. Only time will tell if I hold up to my end of the bargain.

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Political Rant (Not So Much)

The cities of Cleveland and Philadelphia are probably grateful for the amount of dollars that were spent in their cities the past couple of weeks hosting the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. And I am grateful that there were no major incidents of harm to people in the cities. I was not able to watch all of the speakers but did catch some of each Convention and heard almost all of the speeches of Trump and Clinton.

Here are my observations:
1. Both conventions resembled the Hunger Games.
2. Comic Con and the conventions have much more in common than I would have imagined.
3. America is a great nation and I am not even close to the mainstream of the views expressed at both conventions.
4. Facts are squishy at best and in most cases are not so veiled attempts to just deceive.
5. History repeats itself.
6. After hearing the respective platforms, I am not able to vote for either of the major party candidates.
7. I will exercise my right to vote and am grateful for that opportunity.
8. I am praying that God will have mercy on us. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

It's Time to Get Properly Dressed

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to preach at local church here in Mt. Juliet. I found myself very conflicted as I prepared in light of all of the events of this past week. I was not sure how to address the issues of the week to a congregation that I really do not know well. I have preached there once before but really  felt God leading me to the Colossians 3 passage. I really wrestled with Him as I prepared. My prayer is that Christ would be glorified and peoples' lives would be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am grateful to Friendship Community Church for the opportunity to share God's Word with them.

Here is the link. I am an imperfect vessel but His Word is truth.

Monday, June 13, 2016


The events this past weekend in Orlando were horrific. On Friday evening, a young woman, Christina Grimmie was brutally murdered by a man named Kevin James Loibl. I had never heard of either of them before the news reported the tragedy on Saturday. And then to wake up Sunday morning to the news of 50 men and women who had lost their lives in a nightclub shooting was just overwhelming and numbing. But I don't want to be numb towards these events or any other events where injustice is done. I want to read through the names and see the faces of those who have been hurt and killed and I want to pray for those still alive and for their families and friends. I want to really feel for them. I know I cannot fully understand their pain but I want to empathize with them.

Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Vielma, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Kimberly Morris, Edward Sotomayor Jr.Five of the 50 Orlando nigbtclub victims - copied from NBC News
But quite honestly, it is easier for me to be numb or even desensitized towards these acts of evil and violence than it is to feel the raw pain of knowing that evil is real. Some people take whatever means of harm they can find and inflict hurt, suffering and death upon others. Lives of families, friends, and the victims are forever changed and scarred. Those inflicting pain are mean and hateful. They deserve to die is my first thought. And then . . . then I remember. I remember that we are all created in the image of God. We are all designed to worship Him. But there are some who do not know Him. They are deceived into thinking that life without God is real life. That death and destruction is the true calling of the human heart. But God . . . He commends His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. 

Those who killed and were killed . . . Christ died for them. And God's heart must be broken over the many refuse to accept His free gift of grace. And God's heart must be broken when those who have accepted His free gift of grace, refuse to see people as God sees them. I am guilty of judging others and deciding in my own mind who "deserves" the free gift of grace and who doesn't. And God's heart breaks because I choose to chase my own way rather than His.

My heart breaks for those affected by the murders in Orlando. My heart hurts for two young men's families who been affected because their sons/brothers took the lives of so many and then their own lives as well. I am not excusing the evil. I am heartbroken that people lost their lives. People created in the very image of God. People who are sinners, sinners like you and me, who need a Savior.

God - break my heart for what breaks Yours. May I be diligent to share Christ with everyone until You tell me to stop. Amen.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Last Published Feb. 8, 2016

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand
Ugh! Has it really been almost four months since I posted, I am going to do a better job of blogging more lately. Uh, well . . . I guess that makes me a liar. And I hate being caught in a lie. I really am longing for the day when I am not afraid of getting caught in a lie, but just give up lying or trying to make myself look a little better than I really am.

So . . .  what's been happening since early February? That's a whole season and a half ago! If any of you keep up with me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook then you know that in early March Sondra, me, Shelbi, Mark, Morgan and Wilson made our way to New Zealand. We all arrived there separately (by couples that is) and the kids met up at the airport in Auckland and began their trek towards Taupo, while Sondra and I pretty much headed to Taupo directly so I could get acclimated and situated for Ironman New Zealand. We met up with our friends Dave and Kimberly (Dave was also doing Ironman) at a rental house we secured there in Taupo. Everyone joined up, Dave and I did the race on Saturday, March 5 and we left Taupo on the 6th to start exploring all things NZed. For Morgan's account of our trip, check out this link to her blog. Needless to say, it was an awesome trip and a great time with our kids. We also got to visit with many of Sondra's family while we were there. It was so good to see them. We are a blessed family! Sondra and I did make a couple of stops in Australia coming and going. Brisbane on the way over and Sydney on the way back home. Pretty cool to see the sights there even for a short bit of time.

Everyone in the family is experiencing pretty good health. Sondra's mom has her share of aches and pains, has recovered from knee surgery well, and seems to enjoy living in Middle Tennessee close to us. My dad had some breathing issues but the dr. seems to have discovered that he has more asthma than anything else and is doing pretty well. He and my aunt visited with us a couple of weeks ago and we had a great time together.

Work is good. Sondra's school year is over which means the students are gone but she is a 12 month employee so she keeps working but with many fewer interruptions. All of our kids are doing well. Morgan and Wilson have some major change coming for them in August. Wilson is headed back to nursing school in an accelerated program at Union so they will be in Jackson for at least a year and a half. We are excited for them. They will be about 2 hours away to the west and Shelbi and Mark are still 3:15 minutes to the southeast of us in Georgia.

Gearing up for a busy summer but I will try to be more efficient in blogging. We shall see.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I'm Usually Finding What I'm Looking For

So Super Bowl L, uh, I mean 50 has finally been played and the underdog Denver Broncos have earned the title Super Bowl Champs.That defense that they played practically all year was pretty incredible. We all have seen, read and heard about their troubles on offense, but that defense, well, it was pretty impressive to say the least. It is kind of hard as a KC Chiefs fan to congratulate those Broncos fans (the whole AFC West rivalry thing), but their defense won them a championship. Congrats to all Denver Broncos fans everywhere.

Much has been written and said about Cam Newton's press conference. And, his lack of pouncing "on" or at least "toward" that fumble late in the 4th quarter.  I don't know what is going through his head at that time. Actually no one but Cam really knows but most of us have our opinions. If I am looking for a weakness in Cam, my conclusion might be, "What a wimp! Pounce on the ball man. This game hangs in the balance." If I look at it from a coaching perspective, I might conclude, "He's been coached not to jump in a pile. Bad things happen in those things and especially if you happen to end up on the bottom. I don't want you getting hurt." Didn't he have a couple of back fractures in December 2014 as a result of a car accident?

Cam is demonstrative. He likes to have fun. He dabs and some people hate it. Others, they like it. And then Cam comes up against the best defense in the league this year. It is the biggest stage in American football. The world is watching and he runs, he passes (some are good; some are dropped; some look like I threw them), he scrambles, he gets sacked, and on and on. And his team loses on the world stage that happens to be in Santa Clara, CA. And it is tough. It hurts. And he walks across the field and shakes Peyton's hand (and Peyton says he is humble in their exchange) and Cam walks off the field as the QB of the losing team in Super Bowl 50 but it possibly feels like Super Bowl L to him. And then the press conference. His hoodie is on (not a towel like normal) and for people looking for things to further dislike about him, well, it might add to their fuel. "He's hiding! See, he's a sore loser." Remember that Peyton walked off the field without shaking any opponent's hands after losing to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. He was called a poor sport.

I am guilty of usually finding what I'm looking for. If I don't like Cam Newton or Peyton Manning, I will find the things in them that I do not like and I will make those things who they are. I can do that with co-workers, family members, neighbors, church friends, and especially people on a national stage. It is easy to find negative when I am looking for it. Can anyone say election year?!?

I rarely have all the information. I usually assume I do however and form my opinion on limited information. But I expect others to give me the benefit of the doubt. I am not trying to make Cam or Peyton the point of this blog. I have been made keenly aware through the events of this Super Bowl that I form my opinions and conclusions many times on very limited information. I want that kind of opinion formation to not be true of me any anymore. I choosing to look for the good and commit to obtaining more information before forming my quick judgment. I have a long way to go.

And one more thing, Congrats to Peyton Manning on winning your second Super Bowl. You have had a storied career. I enjoy your Papa John's and Nationwide commercials and your hosting of SNL a few years ago still pretty much owns me. Well done on the football field and if half of what I hear about you serving others is true, then I like you all the more.

Monday, February 1, 2016

AWOL - Latest Update

So . . . it has been awhile. I have no excuses. I just have not blogged. Let me try and do a quick catch up here.

November - the whole family flew to Phoenix, AZ to be support Mark in Ironman AZ. He did an awesome job in some really cruddy weather (rainy and cold) and completed a complete IRONMAN on a broken foot. He is a beast! We had a great Thanksgiving. Sondra and I traveled to east TN and enjoyed our time with Mark's family on his grandparent's farm. Wil had a birthday the end of the month. What a great young man. We are blessed to have him in our family.

December - we all headed to KC for my nephew's wedding in early Dec. It was great to see family
and attend the wedding. James (Jimmy) and Megan had a beautiful wedding (officiated by my dad) and they live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex now. Beautiful couple.
 - Mark had his tonsils removed which is a big deal at 5 and a horrible deal when you are 26. He was down for a couple of weeks.
 - We all spent some time together at Christmas at our house. So blessed to have so much time with our family.

January - it wouldn't be January for the Turners if there was not some kind of medical issue and Morgan took up the slack this year. She had her gallbladder removed after many months of feeling cruddy. She is on the mend and regaining her strength. We had a weekend of lots of snow and then the next weekend of mid-60 degree weather. I'll take the warmer weather every time but the hikes in the woods in the snow with Wil were pretty fun. Only wish Mark would have been here to be with us.

I have been training for IM New Zealand since the week after IM Chattanooga last Sept. It will be nice to not be training. With the race that Mark and I had hoped to do last April in GA (got stormed out) to training for IM Chatt to training for IM NZ, I have been in training mode for a year. I am ready for a break and I know that Sondra sure is. She is the constant supporter and encourager. And . . . I just love that girl.

At the end of this month, we all head to New Zealand for  the race and for an extended vacation. We are in the final stages of planning the itinerary that looks to include sky diving, bungee jumping, trekking and seeing lots of locales featured in the Lord of the Rings movies.

I commit to blogging more. Not because I need to be noticed, but because I need to redevelop the discipline.

Watch for blogs about politics, rants about our government, etc. (Not going to happen. I was just seeing if you were still reading.)