A Walk Among the Tombstones… With a Camera

This may be the most cryptic confession I have ever given, but here it goes anyway. I really enjoy taking pictures of old churches, which may be unique, but is not exactly bizarre. The weird part is that most of the time I do not stop with examining the intricate craftsmanship of church architecture, but often allow my exploring to take me behind the churches into their graveyards. Like I said, kind of creepy.

The other day I drove by Union Hill Cemetery, and took note that it is an important local burial site. I had my camera with me, and decided to go see what history I could find there. That is when I came across this tombstone:

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Several things came to mind afterwards. I wondered what Elizabeth experienced as someone who lived (and died) in the era of the civil war. I thought about how society has greatly changed the way we view women since this tombstones inscription. I also examined my own life, and reflected on what am I doing today that is going to matter 150 years from now.

It also begin to sink in, that I take a lot of pictures of graveyards and tombstones. I know that’s not normal, but I am not really ashamed of the fact that I like to take walking tours in graveyard gardens.  In fact, I thought I would share some of my favorite tombstone photos with you.

Boston has plenty of history buried all across the city.

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Here is my friend Michael looking over a graveyard in the Boston Common.

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Captain Daniel Malcolm was a vocal patriot who died just before the Battle of Bunker Hill. He asked to be buried in a stone grave 10 ft. deep to prevent British soldier from unearthing him. This is explained in detailed on the tombstone, but what is really interesting is the fact that you can still see the marks from where British soldiers used his headstone for target practice before the Battle of Bunker Hill.

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Boston’s most favorite son’s original and “upgraded” tombstones.

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This was near John Hancock’s tomb. Death doesn’t look like he’s taking his job too seriously.

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Lone Oak Cemetery in Carville, Louisiana, is where you will find the gravesite of 50 inmates from the Louisiana prison system. Their name, dates, and Department of Correction’s number is all that is listed on the tombstones.

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I found these behind St. Gabriel Church, the Oldest Church in the Mississippi Valley.

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This leper graveyard in Carville is one of the most tragic. People chose to be buried under an alias to protect their families from embarrassment and harm.

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Grace Episcopal in St. Francisville has many civil war veterans buried there, and has the second oldest Episcopalian graveyard in the Louisiana.

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While I know graveyards have their stigmas the history that they hold invite me to explore and appreciate anyway. There are unique perspectives and interesting stories waiting behind, or should I say underneath, every tombstone.

If all this talk about death and graveyards has you down, then maybe this video of Amy and me searching for Al Capone’s grave in Chicago will cheer you up!

The New Rules of the Road

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I always set out to be a well mannered driver, but it never ends that way. The desire to get to my destination as quickly and efficiently as possible always leads to a couple incidents that I am sure inspires road rage in those I share the asphalt with. My intentions are good, but there is a reason why I’ve never had a fish or Christian bumper sticker on my car.

This same trend can show up, not only on my way to work, but also in the good works I do for God. I’ve learned that it’s possible to add well intended rules to your faith that end up producing more burdens than benefits. twitter-bird-1 In other words, some Christian philosophies appear holy because they require self-denial, but have little to do with a life changed by grace.twitter-bird-1 While the intentions may be good, the result is an exhausted Christian life that is unsatisfying to the believer and unattractive to the nonbeliever.

This is exactly what is discussed in Colossians 2.

“[Christ] has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world…” (Colossians 2:20 NLT)

These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”  (Colossians 2:23 NLT)

You would expect that when the Bible mentions “rules of the world” it would include a catalog of self-indulgences, but that is not the case. Instead, it is a list of deeds that lead to self-righteousness that is given.

Standards make a great shoulder to the road, but do nothing for your desire to go mud riding.

While self-indulgence (going mud riding) is dangerous to your soul, at least it has the potential to leave you humbled before God (covered in mud). In the case of self-righteousness though, you never get muddy on the outside which allows you to gain more pride and self-sufficiency outside of the grace of God. This would be like having a Mercedes that you would never dare take off the road, but then allow a family of pigs to live on the inside.

I think Jesus called this being a white washed tomb.

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So what are the new rules of the road that help us avoid this ugly scenario of pigs ruining our leather seats? It is found earlier in this chapter:

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7)

The solution is not discovered in changing the rules of the road, but rather changing the desires of your heart. A love relationship and a lifestyle that keeps us engaged with the center of our affection is what gives life to our souls; not rule keeping. A holy life is what overflows from a thankful heart; not one focused on duty. Standards protect our path, but they do not direct it.twitter-bird-1 Only the love of God can recalibrate our life’s compass, and keep us on His holy highway.twitter-bird-1

We Are Moving!

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A NEW OPEN DOOR

We are excited to share with you that we are moving to Birmingham, Alabama! I will be joining the team at ARC, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve church planters stepping out in faith to launch life giving churches. This is an answer to prayer, and we thank God for this wide open door for ministry.

WE LOVE OUR FRIENDS

Our family has been blessed to have some amazing people in our lives. We want to thank all of our spiritual family in Baton Rouge, and especially those we get to do life with on a daily basis, for being there for us over the years. We also want to honor all of the friends that God has connected us with that may not live nearby, but are close to our hearts. We appreciate every relationship as well as each gesture of support and encouragement.

THANK YOU

I have been a part of a tremendous company since the beginning of the year, and I want to thank Devin Zito and the team at Teknarus for that opportunity. We also want to honor HPServe, not only for the incredible work that they do, but for allowing Amy to play a part in this amazing ministry.

A SPECIAL PLACE

Baton Rouge is a special place. It is where Amy and I met, were married, and also where Sophie was born. I think everyone should come to Louisiana at some point to experience the beauty of Cajun Country. We will miss this city, the people, the Tigers, as well as the food. We expect our last day here will be August 10.

ROLL TI—-GERS!

Thank you for taking the time to read this little memo, and for sharing in our joy. If you are ever in Birmingham let us know!

Identity, Influence & Impact

“In the past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the lord your God told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be the leader of my people Israel.’”

-1 Chronicles 11:2

Saul was positioned before man, but David was positioned before God. Identity, Influence and impact is strengthened or weakened based on which position you value more. Striving and peace are determined by which one gives you confidence, and which one is of little concern. Choose wisely, because as this passage shows, one always outlasts the other. 

God’s Up! Hope’s Up!

Sometimes it takes time for God’s promises to show up on time. I used to get discouraged or even upset when I felt God gave me a promise, and then it would take longer then a couple weeks for that promise to show up in my life. I would wonder if things were not working out because I had messed something up, or if I had done wrong. What short sighted faith. 

It takes time, sometimes, for God’s promises to show up on time. It is in the waiting that we experience the promise the most. It is in that time that we get up close and personal to the promise, because often there is nothing else to hold on to! It is while we are waiting that God is preparing. He is preparing not only the promise, but us to receive the promise. He is not microwaving a snack, but preparing a roast. It takes time sometimes, but that time reminds you that once it comes, it will be better than expected.

Sometimes, while I am waiting on God to show up on time, I can allow negative thoughts to come in and steal my joy.  We have developed a little saying in our family to combat that. It kind of sounds like the Oklahoma Thunder’s chant, and goes like this, “God’s Up! Hope’s Up!” It simply means our hope is in God, and not in ourselves or what we want to happen. It means that no matter what, God is still on the throne, and so we give ourselves permission to have high hopes.

It is easy to fall into a cycle of worry, doubt, and anxiety. Thoughts like, “Something bad will happen,” or “Nothing good will happen,” are just lies from the enemy. Turn those lies upside down, and remind yourself of how many times God has come through for you, as well as how many times has He has saved you from yourself. Take heart! God’s Up! Hope’s Up!

Do Reading Plans Work?

// Bible Boredom //

The Bible can be a lot of things.  It can change your life, inspire you, confront you, and teach you. It can also be boring. Take Leviticus for example. There are some sections of that book that read like a long stretch of highway without civilization.  When reading portions of scripture like this I have to remind myself to focus, pay attention, and read slowly so that I can hear God speak to me. I am also reminded of the importance of a reading plan.

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// Bible Rambo //

In college I did a lot of crazy things. While for most people a statement like that would involve frat parties and alcohol, for me it often includes some zealous activity related to my faith. One time in particular, I decided to read the entire New Testament, and not to eat until I had fulfilled my commitment.  Like I said, crazy.  About a day into this challenge, a friend of mine decided to throw a huge party that would be catered and included just about everyone I knew. I had about 48 hours to complete my challenge before I would miss out on all the fun. As it came closer to the event it was obvious that I was not going to finish reading before the party began. I also didn’t want to break my Jephthah Vow. A compromise was made. I recruited friends to read a couple books of the New Testament out loud as I continue to read to myself in order to complete the challenge before the party. I had some good friends. And I completed the challenge, uh sort of. The lesson is be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.

// The Bible Habit //

It is not a sin to go a day without reading the Bible. Do not allow condemnation, fear, or guilt become motivating factors for reading your Bible. This kind of thinking leads to a performance trap that causes people to complete religious acts out of behavior modification instead of heart transformation.  A habit of regular Bible reading doesn’t necessarily make you more holy. It just means you are giving yourself more opportunity to understand the Bible and know God more.

 

Blogs I Can’t Wait to Read

Here are the blogs I look forward to reading the most right now:

Bob Hamp - http://bobhamp.com

Chad Veach – http://chadveach.tumblr.com

  • Twitter: @chad_veach
  • Why? I love his lists. I love his relevance. I love his realness.  His blog is like a spiritual ice cream cone.  An enjoyable read that is good for the soul. He is fun, encouraging and still finds a way to challenge you. The City Church.

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John Acuff - http://stuffchristianslike.net & http://acuff.me

  • Twitter: @jonacuff
  • Why? Funny. Short posts. Leadership. Entrepreneurship. Christianship??? A great live tweeter. Follow his tweets during major events in culture & Christianity. I discovered him while live tweeting during the Bible series. 

Peter Haas  -  http://www.peterhaas.org

  • Twitter: @PeterHaas1
  • Why? I like his book Pharisectomy, so I started reading his blog. Irreverent in a much needed way. Very funny and thoughtful posts on church, life, and leadership. Senior pastor of Substance, a progressive church that is very effective reaching millennials. Did I mention he is part of the Arc lead team?

Some other friendly bloggers that will stretch your thinking and have some recent content available now:

Jason Bailey, Jonathan Bowles, Kirby Bowles, Matt Marcantonio, Mike Servello, & Zac Gandara.

Have I missed someone?  Is there a great blog that you enjoy, and would like to tell me about?  If you have a blog, and I didn’t mention it then let me know! Share your thoughts and blog suggestions in the comments or message me on twitter.

Time to Change Your Filter

Looking at your life through the filter of disappointments can give you a “victim’s mentality.” This kind of thinking held the People of Israel back on their way to the Promised Land. One example of this can be found in the rebellion of Korah.

“Isn’t it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects” (Numbers 16:13 NLT)

It seems like they got the promise confused with the easy way out of their present struggle. The land flowing with milk and honey was before them, but they couldn’t take their eyes off of what was behind them. 

You may leave your environment, but sometimes it takes the distance between where you were and where you are going for your environment to leave you. The wilderness has a way of working the wrong things out and the right things in; if you don’t give up.

For many of us the Promised Land is not a physical destination, but a place of healing and freedom in our lives. It’s not geography that changes us, but rather the word of God renewing our minds.

Don’t give up in the wilderness when you are in between your Egypt and the Promised Land.

Fish Out of Church

Today I start a new blog about my personal experiences and growth after stepping away from working in ministry, and adjusting to the realities of my new life.  I hope you read it and let me know what you think.  Here is the site: http://fishoutofchurch.com.

I will also continue to blog here as well; sharing the stuff I normally do. I may post some thoughts from scripture or opinions on current events as well as updates on the fam.

Check out Fish Out of Church!