Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The last post for 2008

The first Christmas Kim and I were married I gave her a “Family Christmas Book.” Inside were blank pages to record the memories of 25 Christmas celebrations. This year when I opened the book I realized that there was only one Christmas left. – this was our 25th Christmas as a family. My favorite present under the tree was another copy of the same book for the next 25 years.

Reading through the last 25 years has perhaps made me even a bit more reflective as 2008 draws to a close. There are about 9 hours remaining and I’ve spent much of today thinking back over the past year.

January began busy (a hint of the year to come). I returned to coaching basketball and the Grace Lady Gators had a nearly perfect season (just one loss that gratefully didn’t cost us the league championship).

The month ended with a trip to Ecuador to discover first-hand the work of Compassion International – which was both a humbling and inspiring experience.

February brought Grace the gift of a new Executive Pastor, David Leestma.

In March we said “thank you” and “good bye” to Bob Poteet after 20 years of service to Grace and 40 years of service to the church. "Well done good and faithful servant" has never been more appropriate!

We then said “hello” to Katie Cummings as our new pastor for adult ministries and later to Keeke Hartis to direct our pre-school ministries as well as Mayda Mendiola, David Powers and Katelyn Erickson.

In May Jennifer graduated from Houston Christian High School. It was the first significant family event since my mom died and she was definitely missed. I had the added joy of getting to give the commencement address and presenting Jennifer her diploma.

Jamie got her driver’s license and for the first time in 20 years we are no longer solely responsible for the transportation needs of our daughters (although it seems that now I manage a fleet of cars).

In July I visited long-time Grace mission partners, Barbara and Steve Johnson in Budapest. It was such a blessing to see what God is up to with their coffee house ministry and thanks to Steve, see what God is doing across Hungary and Romania.

A family vacation to the Caribbean was a summer highlight. I’ll never forget toasting Nana (who made the trip possible) on her birthday!

In August as Jennifer and Kelli headed off to college we welcomed Katelyn (a new member of the Grace staff) into our home. The size of the “nest” is definitely not downsizing.

Unfortunately budget requirements necessitated a slight downsizing of Grace staff.

In September Hurricane Ike changed Houston forever.

Kelli was elected president of her sorority. While that alone is a great honor the really cool part is how it’s a culmination of ways God has been working in her life and answering prayers.

Fears of insufficient funds in a downward economy inspired a Kingdom Assignment that on Christmas Day resulted in God being glorified on the cover of the Houston Chronicle - and more importantly in a lot of lives being blessed.

Along the way I made a renewed commitment to staying in shape (it’s a slow and painful process), began getting ready for next April’s MS 150, rebuilt following Ike and survived the ups and downs of another Clemson football season (at least we beat USC).

2008 brought challenges and blessings – so many blessings. I am grateful to pastor such an amazing church, to partner in that task with dedicated leaders and the most amazing staff who love Jesus Christ more than anything.

I am blessed beyond expressing with the gifts of Kim, Kelli, Jennifer and Jamie. Their love truly sustains me.

Most of all I am humbled and amazed by how much God loves me.

2009 begins in just a few more hours and everything tells me that it will be a year to “run with horses.” (see what Jeremiah says about that)

I can hardly wait to get started!

Pigs Get Fat - Hogs Get Slaughtered

In Monday’s edition of the New York Times there was an article in the Science section titled, “For Good Self-Control, Try Getting Religious About It.” (thank you Chip for sending me the article)

The thesis of the piece is that those who are devout in their faith beliefs demonstrate greater self-control. I especially loved this one line:

Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.

So if all those benefits are true (and everyone seems to agree that they are) why are so many so reluctant to pursue matters of faith? You might think that for no other reason than successful marriages, academic careers and long life people might be open to give faith a try.

Totally random thought: At breakfast this morning a friend used the phrase:

Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

I have no idea what that means – even after he tried to explain it. But I really like the way it sounds.

It may well become my standard answer to difficult questions:

Q. What will happen for the Houston economy in 2009?
A. Pigs will get fat, hogs will get slaughtered.

That's as good an answer as any other I've heard.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Change Me

Earlier today our Executive Pastor, Dave Leestma, shared with me a great article by Richard Foster in this month’s issue of Christianity Today. One line in the piece captured something God has been whispering to me for weeks:

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves.

It reminded of a prayer that my home church pastor used often at the end of worship:

Lord, let there be peace on earth and let it begin right here, right now, with me.

I can get so caught up in the excitement of “world changing” ministry that I can lose focus that at the very heart of the matter is the heart – and that begins with my heart and then the heart of our leadership and the heart of our community.

Unless hearts, our hearts (my heart), are being changed (transformed) then the most successful, world changing, things we do won’t really matter much.

Five (very familiar) things change my heart:

Prayer. The longer I serve the church the more I realize how dependant I am on prayer. One of my growing places lately has been a realization of how important it is for me to spend time praying with others.

Worship. Last Sunday I had the rare opportunity to come to Grace simply to worship (and not to lead worship). It turned out to be this amazing gift to share in worship with a community of people that I love. While I can easily imagine (and enjoy) a Sunday off from “work,” I can’t imagine missing time spent in worship.

Time spent in God’s Word. John Stott (one of my heroes) reminds us that we are called to be “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Time spent in that sort of stewardship always changes my heart.

Time spent serving others. Whether its part of a church-wide project or a small unnoticed act of kindness – serving someone always expands my heart – especially if it requires some cost from me.

Time spent in community. Increasingly, I am discovering the importance of authentic friendships – places where I can live with an “unveiled face.” These are rare treasures that perhaps rather than change me – simply allow me to be the “real me.”

Practicing the disciplines of prayer, worship, study, service and community has become almost too familiar a recipe and yet they remain the most effective.

I wonder what difference it might make to begin 2009 by replacing a vision of “changing the world” for a vision of changing myself?

Jesus Action Figure

Yesterday we went to a wonderful exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story was filled with 2,000 year-old artifacts from the area around Jerusalem. My favorite part was a collection of ancient manuscripts including a portion of Isaiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, pages of New Testament Epistles and Gospels.

Among the manuscripts was the oldest known copy of Luke’s Gospel and the pages displayed were the Christmas Story. There was something powerful about viewing an 1,800 year-old document that tells the same story we’ve been celebrating over the last several weeks. It’s a story that has become so familiar for so many of us – Linus even shares it with Charlie Brown – but those that first held that parchment were likely hearing it for the very first time.

The museum gift shop actually has some wonderful items in support of the exhibit, especially a collection of Ethiopian crosses and a book on the crosses. I discovered these beautiful and unique crosses on a trip to Ethiopia a few years ago. I’m glad I brought several home – they are a bit pricey in the gift shop.

The gift shop also had, for $14,95, a Deluxe Jesus Action Figure. The action figure comes with two jugs for turning water into wine, five loaves of bread and two fish (for feeding thousands) and glow in the dark hands (I’m not sure why the glow in the dark hands). I’m not making this up!

I suspect that we will be back at the museum soon – there are some in our family who can’t wait to visit the Body World 2 exhibit. I suspect I’ll opt to visit The Birth of Christianity again – but I’ll probably skip the gift shop this time.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Last Saturday morning I continued what’s become a weekly bike ride in preparation for next April’s MS 150. This is my first real experience with a road bike and so each week I am learning how to shift gears, avoid traffic, unclip my shoes from the pedals and fall with a minimum of damage to me and to the bike.

This week I got to practice my falling technique again (narrow bridges are a challenge for me) and I learned how to change the tube of a flat tire – potentially important lessons on a ride from Houston to Austin.

I also discovered that negotiating traffic can include cows.

We came around a turn in the trail to discover a half dozen or so longhorn cattle blocking the path. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do next – the horns are really big up close. Hardie (my friend, biking companion and “instructor”) suggested that we just proceed slowly. It seems to be that both ends of a longhorn are “business ends” and both should be approached with equal caution so with his encouragement slowly maneuvered around the herd (I’m not sure how many cows are required to constitute a herd – but it seemed like enough).

I can’t think of many other places where a morning bike ride might be interrupted by longhorn cattle. That’s another reason why I love living in Texas!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the front page

Just before our first (of 6) Christmas Eve Service, one of our elders told me that he hoped that instead of it being a long night that it would be a long blessing.

That’s exactly what the next nine hours became – a long blessing.

The blessing continued the next morning when I opened the Houston Chronicle to discover their story about our Kingdom Assignment Adventure on the front page. It’s a little odd to find your own face on the cover of the newspaper. I wasn’t sure how to get additional copies without it seeming like I was buying my own picture (so I sent the girls).

I wish the Chronicle could have covered all 55 stories – each one is amazing in it’s own way. I also wish the Chronicle had mentioned that the idea began with Denny Bellesi back in 2000.

What I loved most about the article is that God got all the glory – not Grace and not even the Kingdom Adventurers.

If you missed the article you can still find it at

Monday, December 22, 2008

N. T. Wright on Prayer

Over the weekend I read again some marvelous thoughts on pray written by N T Wright in his book “Simply Christian.” His words both encouraged and convicted me as I’ve been praying in preparation for Christmas Eve:

For the pantheist prayer is simply getting in tune with the deeper realities of the world and of oneself. Divinity is everywhere including within me. Prayer is therefore not so much addressing someone else, who lives somewhere else, but rather discovering and getting in touch with an inner truth and life that are to found deep within my own heart and within the silent rhythms of the world around. Pantheistic prayer has certain stately nobility about it. But it isn’t Christian prayer.

For the Deist prayer is calling across a void to a distant deity. This lofty figure may or may not be listening. He, or it, may or may not be inclined, or even able, to do very much about us and our world, even if he (or it) wanted to. All the Deist can do is send off a message, like a marooned sailor scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle, on the off-chance that someone out there might pick it up. That kind of prayer takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn’t Christian prayer.

Living as a Christian means living in the world as it’s been reshaped by and around Jesus and his Spirit. And that means Christian prayer is a different kind of thing – different from both the prayer of the pantheist, getting in touch with the inwardness of nature and that of the Deist, sending out messages across a lonely emptiness.

Christian prayer is about standing at the fault line [between heaven and earth], being shaped by the Jesus who knelt in Gethsemane, groaning in travail, holding heaven and earth together like someone trying to tie two pieces of rope with people tugging at the other ends to pull them apart… No wonder we give up so easily. No wonder we need help.
(pg 163, 164)

Friday, December 19, 2008


Last Saturday night Kim and I hosted a Christmas Party in our home for the Grace leadership (staff, elders and trustees). It’s and evening that always reminds me of how grateful I am to serve with such talented and dedicated people who most of all share a deep love for Jesus Christ.

As we were cleaning up after the party I found, on a table in our foyer, a little pile of change (coins). It was just a few nickels, pennies, dimes and maybe a quarter. I thought it was a little odd that someone left a pile of coins on the table. Then I found a second pile in the den and two more in the dining room. If there had been a pile in my bedroom I might have been a little freaked out – instead I’m just perplexed.

I’m wondering if this is a tradition somewhere – leaving around little piles of pocket change. What I am sure of is that Saturday night at our Grace Christmas Party – I was “changed!”

As Common As Money

Last week as we were traveling I caught a few minutes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on TV (the Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka version).

The scene I watched was as Charlie Bucket announced to his family his intention to sell the golden ticket he found so that the money could go to meet family needs. At that point his Grandpa George (the one who never gets out of bed) interjects:

There's plenty of money out there. They print more and more every day. But that ticket? There are only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be! Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?

Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money.

I started thinking about all the things I am tempted to give up for something as common as money.

Time spent with family and friends or
Opportunities to participate in God’s kingdom

I don’t know why at times I give in to these temptations… only a dummy would give these up for something as common as money.


I make a lot of mistakes.

I doubt that comes as news to anyone, but it’s true – I make a lot of mistakes.

One of my error-rich fields is typing. I wasn’t the greatest speller as a kid. Teachers told me I thought too fast and therefore didn’t pay attention to what I was writing (which I think was a very clever and encouraging way to tell me I am sloppy speller).

I guess I do the same thing when I type on a keyboard. I’m not the fastest keyboarder – but I did take typing in high school (maybe the most lasting class I took) – so I’m at least proficient (I use all my fingers and don’t look at the keys).

Last week a member of our staff very helpfully pointed out the need for my outgoing communication (esp. emails and blogs) to be proofed by someone – preferably someone not in a sloppy rush as I often am – or perhaps someone not thinking as fast as I do (at least that’s what my third grade teacher would tell me). Mistake-filled communication might suggest to some a generally sloppiness in ministry. I agree. So I am working harder this week to prepare communication with enough time for others to help me eliminate the mistakes.

Of course, I will still make mistakes, we all will, and in an odd sort of way that actually speaks to an authenticity which is also to be highly valued. However we should all strive toward excellence.

For the last couple of decades excellence has become a value for a lot of churches. It most commonly get’s expressed like this:

Excellence honors God and inspires people.

It’s a value drawn from Colossians 3:23-24. Churches and individuals who hold this value commit to doing the best we can with what we have. There is a difference between excellence and perfection. Again, excellence is doing the best we can with what we have. Doing the best we can means that every aspect of Grace should reflect a quality effort and not a compromise to expediency (the problem when I type). We don’t strive for excellence simply for the sake of excellence, but because we serve an excellent God. We have the greatest message in history! Therefore, we should present all we do in the best format possible.

That’s not only true for what we do it’s also true for how we are “to be.”

I’ve been thinking over the last few days about pursing excellence and one of the places where we can honor God and inspire people is by demonstrating excellence in our interactions with one another.

This is important, so keep reading. It’s a lousy witness to get every word spelled correctly and all the grammar mistakes eliminated and then treat one another harshly or even hurriedly. Maybe the most important place we can practice excellence in our relationships – even our staff relationships.

So throughout the week I’m asking myself: “Is this conversation honoring God?”“Am I treating this person in a way that would inspire others?”“Am I rushing sloppily through my relationships or am I pursuing excellence?”

PS – No one proofed this – but I tried to type slower!

I can't speak Spanish

I hate that I can’t speak Spanish.

I was riding in the elevator just now with a member of our staff – whose first language is Spanish. She asked me if I could speak any…. I thought for a moment of a clever response:

Si. Nacho grande.

Thankfully, I just confessed “no” – then added “but my daughters do” as if that helped or justified me somehow.

For significant number of the people who work around Grace, Spanish is their first language. That’s also true for a lot of our members – which is why we have a Grace en Espanol service.
I can’t count beyond 5 (not enough Sesame Street growing up I guess).

A few years ago while on vacation a friend and I challenged each other to learn Spanish before the next year’s vacation (we spend time at the beach each summer with these friends). That was probably five years ago – still no Spanish for me (or for my friend which makes me feel a little better).

I’ve always struggled with languages. In high school I tried a year of French before switching to Latin – reasoning “Latin is a dead language I won’t have to speak it.”

In college I began as a Bachelor of Arts major but the language requirement shifted me to Bachelor of Science. Though I didn’t exactly ace economics and physics (in the B.S. curriculum) it was better than my attempts at Italian and French.

My original plan was to take the 101 level of four different languages – after all as long as you can conjugate “to be” you can get through 101 of any language. But I couldn’t convince my advisor that 4 101’s was the same as 4 semester of a foreign language (I still think I was right – I can be a strict constitutionalist when I need to me). So after Italian and French 101, I attended up in French 102. My French professor (who by the way spoke French with the worst upstate South Carolina accent) agreed to pass me if I promised not to take a 200 level French class. I took the C and ran to get my B.S.

Seminary was easier. We didn’t need to be conversant in Greek or Hebrew just able to translate. Translate I can do – I could do that with Italian and French. It’s the speaking that trips me up. In fact my Hebrew professor ceased calling on my to read because in his own words, he “hated hearing me butcher the language.”

So I don’t know if I can ever learn Spanish or whether I am hopelessly unilingual – but I hate that I live in Houston and can’t speak Spanish!


There’s the scene in Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament not the band) where two estranged brothers, Jacob and Esau, and reunited. When they see one another for the first time in a long time Jacob utters one of my favorite lines in the Bible.

to see your face is like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33: 10)

Isn’t that a great image!

It seems that lately, through the wonder of Facebook, I’ve been seeing faces that I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve had a Facebook page for a while now but apparently Facebook is becoming very popular with 40-somethings – and increasingly I’ve received “friend requests” and “suggestions” from people that I haven’t seen in ages.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that seeing their faces is like seeing the face of God – but it is fun to see how they’ve “aged” and learn where we are (I had the Facebook page of a high school friend open the other day and one of my daughters asked “who the old person was?”)

In the past week I’ve seen:

Faces I’ve known since kindergarten
Faces I walked through turbulent times alongside
Faces that knew me “when” and Faces that know me now
Faces from coast to coast and places in between
Faces that I wouldn’t have recognized without the name and
Faces I’d know anywhere.

I’m trying not to become obsessed with Facebook. My daughters who understand these things far more that I do tell me to limit how much I change status, write on walls or post comments. Evidently that’s creepy (at least so they tell me). But I am enjoying faces that stir memories.

PS: Here's my Facebook Pic

Need a little eggnog chai

When I was in Middle School my dad was my principal (he was also my principal in Elementary School – quite an experience).

Most mornings I’d ride to school with my dad and we would always stop at the Krispy Kreme donut shop next door to the campus. Dad would keep the car running and I run in grap myself a donut (lemon filled are still my favorite) and get dad a large cup of coffee.

I was thinking of Dad’s coffee this afternoon as I stopped by Starbucks and treated myself to a venti extra hot (175 degrees) eggnog chai (tis the season for eggnog). I wonder how Dad would have compared his coffee to my chai….

The arrival of eggnog at Starbucks in red cups is for the Ferguson family a sign of the holidays (which lots of people have written blogs about). Some in our family send one another text messages each time they enjoy an eggnog latte. With my discovery of eggnog chai I am hoping to join in the game this season.

Most years I work hard to resist letting Christmas start too early. I usually like to get through Thanksgiving first and tell everyone no decorations or Christmas music until after the 4th Thursday in November, “I don’t care how long the decorations have been up at Target.”
This year’s been different.

Hurricanes and stock market crashes have taken a toll on a lot of us here in Houston. The people I talk to everyday are tired, anxious and worried and perhaps carrying around more fears than hopes as we enter the final weeks of 2008.

So this year it seems that more than ever we need to know that “in the dark streets shineth an everlasting light” and that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him (tonight).”
So yesterday I told our senior staff that we need a little Christmas… right this very minute.
If life was a musical we might have broken into song (ok some of us did).

And even though it’s a bit cliché – this year it’s really true.

We need a little Christmas now!

Cross Fit

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6:00 I am part of an exercise program called Cross Fit. I really like the name since my goal is to be “cross fit” in every aspect of life. I also like the program – it’s different every time and though it’s only 30 minutes it’s an intense workout.

For instance this morning we ran and did pull ups. One 400 meter run then one pull up followed by another 400 meter run and two pull ups followed by another 400 meter run and three pull ups… do you see the pattern? The idea this morning was to see how many times we could repeat that pattern in thirty minutes…. I’ve been exhausted all day!

I’ve discovered that friendships are the only thing that:

1) get me out of bed at 5:21 (which is what time I need to get up to be awake enough to exercise at 6) and
2) get me through the workout.

Without the encouraging voices of Terry and Dave and Roy and sometimes Katelyn cheering me on I would have quit this morning around lap three – actually I would have stayed in bed and missed the “fun!”

There are a lot of other encouraging voices that keep me going in the other parts of life where I am striving to be “cross fit.” Way too many to name but I am just as grateful for their cheering me on.


Earlier today I attended a lunch at which Drayton McLane (owner of our Astros) was the keynote speaker at the lunch and shared four pieces of wisdom that he had received years ago.

Dare to dream - dreams are free.
Trust your imagination not your memory.
Seek adversity - the lines are shorter and you grow.
Walk with elephants and surround yourself with positive people.

I've found myself reflecting on Drayton's words all afternoon. They've really challenged me to consider whether or not my dreams and imagination are God-sized, how much energy I spend avoiding adversity and who are the people walking alongside me.

Proverbs 13:20 put it this way: "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm."

What are your dreams? Which do you trust more, your imagination or your memory? Do you avoid adversity? Who is walking alongside you?

Great questions for reflection!

Fall Fever

Traditionally people talk about experiencing Spring Fever. The dark days of winter are over and with new life bursting forth the air is full of possibilities. Spring Fever makes a lot of sense and I’m sure I’ve fallen victim to it over the years.

But, at least for me, Autumn is the season that seems to inspire me and fill me with energy and excitement. Maybe because growing up in the South I find myself enjoying letting go of the long hot days of summer and energized by cool breezes and slightly “crisper” air (though air in Houston isn’t never really “crisp”). This time of year I find myself suffering (joyfully) from Fall Fever.

I love ever moment of it!

Today a friend sent me a poem that a mutual friend (Sally Russ) wrote that captures my Fall Fever mood. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar to what she so beautifully describes:

Autumn knocked once and
I sighed like a martyr
and went to the door.
I am not to be charmed
By this kiss-and-run lover,
I’ve known him before.
I am braced for his hazel-flecked gaze
and the flash of his insolent grin.
“I am busy with summer,”
I tell him, as always,
“You cannot come in.”
But he laughs in my face
as he holds out the giftI can never withstand…
a maple leaf bright as a flame,
in the palm of his winter-chapped hand.

Kingdom Assignment

This morning we wrapped up the Insufficient Funds – All Sufficient God message series. As difficult as the subject has been, especially in such an uncertain financial season, it’s been a real blessing to teach. I’ve gotten lots of feedback from people letting me know how much they needed to hear what God has to say about money.

We concluded the series with the launch of something I’ve been wanting to do since coming to Grace. We invited volunteers to take part in a Kingdom Assignment. 55 people stepped forward and received a $100 bill along with the challenge to invest it in God’s kingdom and then come back in 90 days and share the story of what happened (it is part of a movement that began at Coast Hills Community Church in 2000).

Part of what I discover is that it’s fun to give away money.

There is something really cool about taking a stack of $100 bills and walking down a line handing them to people (some that I knew others that I didn’t).

I alos learned that God works fast.

I’ve already heard from two people that their $100 bill has doubled – one as soon as he returned to his seat. Maybe more importantly I received a great story of how two hearts were connected – one who received a Kingdom Assignment and the other who offered to pray.

We are called to be a part of the story and when provided the opportunity we are ready.

That’s the most important lesson I learned yesterday. As I was preparing the message I wrote in my notes:

It’s important to me that these lessons we are learning about trusting an all sufficient God when we are living with insufficient funds move beyond theory and into our lives.

We weren’t created to hear God’s story, we were created to be a part of the story and I was so encouraged by the response to the invitation to join an adventure with God.

Can't Wait to Get Up in the Morning

Our daughter Jennifer is coming home from college this evening to spend a fall break weekend here in Houston. Jennifer is a freshman at the University of South Carolina and this will be her first trip back home since we dropped her off in August.

Needless to say we are very excited.

This morning I woke up with a “can’t wait to get up in the morning because today Jennifer is coming home” feeling of excitement.

I’m convinced that’s the way we are supposed to start every morning.

I can’t wait to get up because today is the day that… (you finish the sentence).

There are lots of possibilities.

Great teachers can’t wait to get up because each day they get an opportunity to shape young minds.

Great architects can’t wait to get up and create spaces.

I suppose great accountants can’t wait to get up and account for things.

I asked our pastors today what gets them up in the morning. I loved their answers:

Getting the hear people’s stories
Finding creative ways to assure people with God’s promises
Working with elders and staff that are like family
I’m convinced having a “I can’t wait to get up because” attitude is critical to ministry leaders.
A friend of mine loves to quote Robert Frost who once remarked,
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

No “can’t wait to get up because” in the leadership…no “can’t wait to get up” in the church.
Right now I can’t wait to get up each morning because of the amazing people I get to serve alongside and the privilege of sharing Jesus’ good news and way of life.
What gives you a “I can’t wait to get up in the morning” feeling?


From time to time I need to remind myself of the foundation beneath all that we are doing as a church.

Our life and ministry is grounded in the belief that life, true life, begins with Jesus Christ. Knowing Him, serving Him, following Him and worshiping Him are the foundations for discovering the abundant life He promised.

Grace Presbyterian Church is committed to following Jesus as we respond to His great commandment ( to love the Lord our God and our neighbors) and His great commission ( to go into the world making disciples and proclaiming His love).

We do all this because we believe that…

Jesus is the Word of God who made His dwelling among us… (John 1: 1 – 4, 14)

Jesus is the Rabbi who calls us to follow Him and learn His way of life… (Matthew 4: 18 – 22)
Jesus is the Prophet who announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God… (Mark 1: 15)

Jesus is the Messiah who preaches good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims freedom, opens eyes and releases the oppressed… (Luke 4: 14 – 21)

Jesus is the Son of God who invites us into an intimate relationship with God the Father… (Mark 1: 10, 11)

Jesus is the Son of Man who came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many… (Mark 10: 43 – 45)

Jesus is the Light of the World who takes away our darkness… (John 8: 1; Revelation 21: 22 – 25)

Jesus is the one Lord who alone we worship... (Philippians 2: 5 – 11)

Jesus is the Savior who forgives our sins and invites us into everlasting life with Him… (Matthew 1: 21; John 3: 16)

John Locke

I received a great email yesterday from one of our daughters in college telling me how one of her professors had misrepresented John Locke – something about a blank slate, tabula rasa. At first I thought she meant John Locke the character on Lost, but then I realized that she was talking about the 17th century English philosopher.

Her email reminded me how much smarter my kids are than I am. They’ve read books I’ve never read, have well-informed opinions on a wide-range of subjects and all three of them know how to get the music from the computer on to my iTouch (which for some reason I can’t figure out so I just live with whatever they download for me – though I have gotten good at charging downloads to one daughter’s iTunes account).

It is a bit intimidating to have three daughters who are so much smarter than I am but it does have me reading more in order to keep up. And I can always fall back on the fact that I know a lot more about the John Locke on Lost than they do (though actually understanding John Locke the philosopher helps to understand John Locke the Lost character).

The Stranger

Preparing yesterday’s message on unveiling our faces I couldn’t get Billy Joel’s song, The Stranger, out of my head. I was in high school when the album was released in 1977 and so many of the songs bring back so many memories (Only the Good Die Young, Always a Woman, Vienna, She’s Always a Woman and my favorite, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant).
Before I can fully focus on this coming week’s message, here’s one last glance at The Stranger.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out andShow ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the strangerBut we love to try them on
Well we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover see
The stranger in yourself?

Ike Driving

A few years ago I spent some time in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. It was an amazing experience in so many ways, including my exposure to driving in Africa. Kim and I lived in Genoa, Italy when we were in grad school and I had always’ thought driving in Italy to be a challenge. Ethiopian drivers changed that opinion. Driving in Addis is a full speed adventure – an E Ticket ride. Lanes are really just suggestions, as are most of the other traffic laws. Every car has a dent from a too close encounter with a neighbor. Aggression and boldness are the prerequisite driving skills.

A trip last summer to Romania was nearly as harrowing. Romania is most two lane highways lined with ditches on which drivers play an Eastern Europe version of “chicken.” Fearlessness and the ability to quickly calculate the closing speed of oncoming traffic and the needed skills.
On each of those occasions I left the driving to those with more local experience (though I did drive a bit in Italy). Today, I wished I had taken lesson from my Ethiopian friends.

A few days after IKE and traffic in Houston is beginning to feel a bit like driving in Addis. Without traffic lights and with trees and standing water turning roads into obstacle courses driving is increasingly requiring fearlessness and aggression. It’s gotten a little worse each day.

Two rules I’ve discovered.

First – do not make eye contact with other drivers – it’s a sign of weakness and they’ll never let you go.

Second – He who hesitates waits – be bold and hit the gas.

I suspect in the days to come traffic will get back to normal – but for now – start your engines and let the race begin!

Church This Morning

We had church this morning – which was actually quite an accomplishment given that we had neither power nor water.

The rains that came early this morning added to the damage we received yesterday and flooded the roads all around west Houston. Driving to church Ben and I got the chance to play Good Samaritans and push a neighbor’s stalled car out of one of the series of lakes that Briar Forest had become (gratefully we were in my truck).

With rising water and no utilities in the building the smart call seemed to be to send people home.

Then around 10 about a 100+ people arrived all at once and the suddenly it seemed that church just started to happen.

It wasn’t a traditional service – nor was it contemporary – it was just church.

With Brian at the piano and Dave leading, we sang a hymn and then broke into circles where in small groups we shared our experiences over the last couple of days and places where we needed prayer. For our offering we offered our praise (instead of our money) to God, by sharing things we were thankful for this morning.

I shared a few thoughts about Jesus:
Being able to sleep through the noise of storms but
Awakes when His followers cry out for help and then is
Able to calm the storm with only a word.

It’s a great lesson for coping with the storms of life that are so much more damaging than Ike.
We closed with a song and then headed home.

This morning was a great reminder for me that church isn’t our responsibility. We didn’t have the resources to make church happen this morning – but God did – so we had church today.

On the Clean Side of the Storm

Throughout today, as we touched base with friends, family and neighbors in west Houston and beyond, I’ve heard over and over again: “At least we were on the clean side of the storm.”
I’ll admit I had similar thoughts around 3 am as I was pulling up radar on my Centro and noticing how much worse it seemed just a few miles east of us. News reports today confirmed that downtown and east Houston fared far worse than our neighborhood. Of course none of us can compare with the damage closer to the coast.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Our neighborhood has power (and internet – thus this blog) but no water. Most those around us – even just across the parkway – have none of the above. Driving to friends this afternoon – quick aside: not even a hurricane could keep the Ferguson and Simpson families from watching the Clemson game. As soon as we heard that the Sorensen home had a dish that worked and a generator – we were there. Thanks Doug and Jenny for indulging us…… driving to friends and then surveying the damage at church I realized that things are still a mess here on the clean side of the storm.

Life comes in degrees.

You can always find someone who got hit harder by the storm and find someone who has barely been touched. But when you think about it neither makes the damage in your yard any less real.

Life comes in degrees…but each degree counts.

A few years ago the church I served in the Silicon Valley rode the tech bubble to the top. At one point we had a $22M budget and a huge staff. Then the bubble burst and IPOs were making everyone millionaires. In the aftermath we had to greatly reduce our staff by letting 61 people go.

This fall at Grace to restructure the budget to align more strategically to our vision we let go of 3 staff positions.

I thought 3 would be much easier than 61 – by degree it should be 1/20th easier – it isn’t.

Life comes in degrees and we should never forget that so much of what we experience is a minor nuisance (such as a temporary loss of power) while others around the world (and just around the corner) suffer so much more. But it doesn’t make our losses any less real… even on the clean side of the storm.

Hurricane Haircut

So everything is done that can be done to get ready for Hurricane Ike. We have a generator and plenty of gas to run it, a small window unit to keep one room cool, plenty of food and water and charcoal and batteries. We thought our bedroom closet was way too big to be practical – but now that its become the hurricane safe room it seems just right – maybe even a bit cramped if 8 people are in there tonight.

So everything is done except…. I wanted to get my hair cut before the storm came.

I have no idea why – a counselor could probably unpack this for me – but there is something about getting my hair cut that relaxes me and feels a bit like the final item on every check list is completed.

I don’t go to a fancy salon – just a chain place next to Krogers – which is good because I bet I go twice a month sometimes. I like my hair really short (as close as they can cut it with scissors – no clippers).

If I got my hair cut the wind and rain wouldn't be such a bother - though it's not like I have a lot of hair to begin with - I just like haircuts.

So everything is checked off the hurricane preparedness list, but I still need a haircut…

Bell Tower

Twice in meetings today (one that just wrapped up this evening) I was reminded that a zillion people drive by Grace every day on the Sam Houston Tollway (I actually have no idea of the number but it must be close to a zillion). In both of those meetings comments were made along the lines of:

I used to drive by everyday on the Tollway and I had no idea there was a school here… (or) I had no idea of all that was going on inside…”

For years there’s been a vision – which I love – of a “bell tower” fronting the Tollway that would “tell” everyone – the zillion people who drive by – who we are and what we are doing.
I’ve begun praying that God might provide a way to make this vision a reality (and the architect in me is doodling towers in my journal).

Weather Eye

Author Anne Lamott writes:

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”


It was a good reminder for me as I began to work on this Sunday’s message. More on that later in the week.

Perhaps like a lot of you I’ve found myself once again obsessed with watching the gulf. This week it’s Hurricane Ike (is it just a coincidence that Ike is heading our way and Tina is scheduled to perform at the Toyota Center next month?). My favorite web sites have switched from pastors’ blogs to the National Hurricane Center ( and Weather Underground ( I’m convinced that I need to check back each (and every) hour to know the latest computer model forecast.

Growing up on the Carolina coast, hurricanes are familiar to me. I’ve always liked the fact that we name them and then spend days anxiously awaiting their arrival (it’s like having in-laws coming for a visit). That’s what really bothered me about earthquakes when we lived in California, they just “drop in” without warning. Anyway like most of the gulf coast I’ll be spending the week with a “weather eye” on the Weather Channel.

One More South Carolina Story

Driving back to Columbia from Great Falls I noticed that the “check engine” light on my daughter Jennifer’s Hyundai. (Jennifer who is a freshmen at Univ. of So. Carolina let me use her car to drive to the funeral – one of the unexpected blessings of the trip was getting to see Jenn).

Anyway I noticed the light on so found a Hyundai dealership to check it out (turned out to be something with an oxygen sensor that was still under warranty and is now fixed).

The waiting area for the service department at the Hyundai dealership includes a “porch” area with rocking chairs – I love to rock – so while the repairs were underway I sat ndrocked and for much of the time “shot the breeze” with C.B. , the service manager. C.B. asked about the funeral – turns out he once worked in Great Falls. He asked if I was related to any Ferguson’s in Winnesboro, SC where he grew up.

Quick aside and important to know if you spend any amount of time when in South Carolina – people rarely ask “What do you do? ” but they almost always ask “Where are you from? ” or “Are you related to…?” South Carolinians care far more about the family you are from than about what you do for a living. Our families tell us much more about who we are –at least in South Carolina. My wife, Kim, calls it the “whose your mama” question and it is common throughout the state.

I am actually related to the Fergusons in Winnesboro and it turns out that C.B. played football and graduated from High School with my cousin Bill (who also graduate with an architectural degree with me from Clemson). C.B. and I both lost touch with Bill after college – last either of us heard he was working as a steward for US Airways.

Anyway there are rocking chairs at the Hyundai dealership where C.B. and I made a “family” connection and now Jennifer has a good place to take her car if she has any trouble.

Great Falls

Today I’m in South Carolina, with a long wait at the airport before heading home to Houston.
This was an unexpected trip. One of my cousins died last Sunday morning and his dad, my uncle, asked if I would speak for the family at the funeral (here in South Carolina we have funerals, not memorial services). A few years ago I made a commitment to always try to honor that sort of family request (I haven’t always been as good at that as I might have liked) so on Tuesday I flew “home” to South Carolina.

The funeral was in Great Falls, SC, the town where my dad and his 6 brothers and 4 sisters grew up (dad was the 10th of 11). In an era where going to college wasn’t just assumed, my grandparents accomplished a remarkable feat of sending all 11 off to college. Many, including my dad, returned to Great Falls to start their families, though eventually all moved away and only one (my uncle who’s son died) ever returned to live there. My parents were living there when I was born (though I was actually delivered at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC – about an hour away). Dad taught high math during those years and this week I ran into a few of his former algebra students.

There’s not much in Great Falls these days. The mill that was central to the town’s economy closed years ago. The town is a little too far off of I-77 (which connects Charlotte and Columbia SC) to benefit from traffic and at half way between each is too far out to be a bedroom community for either.

The funeral was at the Mt. Dearborn United Methodist Church. It’s the church my dad attended when he was growing up and the church where I was baptized. In fact until I was 4 (when my parents heading to Charleston, SC and the coast) I lived 3 houses down from the church.

My life was certainly shaped by my parents’ decision to move to Charleston. The Carolina lowcountry possess a unique culture of its own. I was reminded how much of who I am is a blend of my coastal experiences and “upstate” heritage.

Anyway, I hadn’t been in the Mt. Dearborn church in years and had forgotten how small the sanctuary is – I’d guess it sits maybe 100 – certainly not many more. It made me realize that there must have been a time when my grandparents along with 11 kids, spouses, grandchildren and various aunts, uncles and cousins must have filled half the place on Sunday mornings. We did again this Wednesday as we gathered to honor my cousin.

When I got up to speak I glanced out the window and saw that from the pulpit I had a perfect view of the front yard of the house I used to live in – I guess that’s why dad never wanted to skip a Sunday – it would have been too obvious! Somehow the combination of standing just a few feet from where I was baptized, looking out at the house where I lived and a sanctuary full of family got to me. I found myself suddenly more nervous than I can ever remember when speaking. I was glad to be wearing a robe because by legs were shaking so much.

I managed to hide my nerves in my voice and my Aunt Ruth (always one of my favorites and the only other Presbyterian in the bunch) told me I did great.

After the service we drove out to a cemetery out in the country were many of our family have been buried. After the committal we hung around the cemetery for quite a while. There is a good bit of family history told through the tombstones and they prompted lots of stories and memories. We finished back at the church were the members had preparedthe sort of lunch you can only find in the fellowship halls of small southern churches. In fact over the two days I was in Great Falls I ate more fried chicken and drank more REALLY sweet tea than I am supposed too – this would not be a good week for a blood test (and if you ever have the change to eat at the Wagon Wheel in Fort Lawn, SC don’t pass it by).

I am flying back today with a little greater appreciation for home, roots and the stories that unite families together. It was good to remember all that it means when I say that I am from South Carolina.

The Weepies

This summer, through a surprising turn of events, I received an iTouch. I know, it’s not quite as cool as an iPhone but it is a great device for listening to music, watching videos and surfing the web.

Over the past month I’ve done a lot of traveling: mission trips, family vacation, pastors meetings and moving daughters to college. The iTouch has been a real blessing – especially on a long flight from Budapest to New York.

Before heading out our daughter Kelli made sure my touch was loaded with music and video that she selected (though they let me pick a few songs). Thanks to Kelli I’ve listened to music I didn’t know existed, included a couple who sing with sort of a folk style. They call their band The Weepies.

I love The Weepies! So thank you Kelli for the introduction.

Starfish and Spiders

I’m in California this morning to meet with a group of pastors on denomination concerns. It’s my first time back to California since moving to Houston three years ago. Although today I am in So. Cal (Long Beach) and home during my West Coast Season was No Cal (Menlo Park) – it still very much feels like California. I’ve quickly been reminded of things I’ve missed and things I haven’t.
Flying out yesterday I nearly completed reading a fascinating leadership study, "The Starfish and the Spider: The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations."

Two quotes keep rattling around in my head:

"put people in open systems an they will automatically want to contribute [and contribute their best]" (wiki is a great example)

And my favorite thought:

"When you give people freedom you get chaos - but you also get incredible creativity"

The book is filled with examples ranging from the Quakers role in the abolition of slavery to the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous to the Apaches (both the Native American tribe and the operating system underlying most of the internet) to Craigslist and wiki as successful leaderless organizations.

A great read that I’d highly recommend for anyone interested in leadership.

5 Questions

I’ve set aside time away during that coming week for study, planning and preparation for the fall. It’s also a week in which Kim and I will be enjoying some time away together. During the week I will reflecting on my leadership and one of the tools I’ve found helpful is a series of 5 questions written by Perry Noble, an amazing pastor in South Carolina (and a huge Clemson fan).

They are great questions for all of us and especially those of us called to leadership.

#1 - Am I Listening To The Voice of God? My job as a leader is to listen to and obey His voice. Scripture says in Isaiah 2: 22 that we are not to fear man, but the Lord. What is it that the Lord is telling me to do that scares me to death because I know “they” will not approve? Listen to the voice of God because…He is Sovereign!

#2 - Am I Taking Risks? The thing I never want to do is to play it safe. What is the risk that God wants me to take?

#3 - Am I Understanding How Big God Is? On my journey through Scripture I am understanding more and more how HUGE God is…and how much more He desires to do. One of the problems with the modern church is that we limit God. Why does the church limit God when Jesus said what He said in John 14: 12 ? Why can’t God grow a church like He did in the book of Acts? Why can’t entire communities be transformed? Why can’t we see things happen in our time that happened in Scripture? Is He not the same God? God is so much bigger than my greatest fear or obstacle!

#4 - Am I Surrounding Myself With The Right People? One of the privileges I have is working with an unbelievable staff. All we have is a bunch of common men and women who are in love with Jesus! (Sort of like Acts 4: 13 ) AND–everyone here believes that GOD CAN DO AWESOME THINGS. AND also–no one here has their own agenda…they are sold out to the vision of this church. You either have vision or division…and God works through one and not the other!!!

#5 - Am I Giving It My Best? I am called by God to give my 100% absolute best in all that I do. One of the temptations of ANY pastor is to slip into cruise control and “take it easy.” AND maybe that works for some people; however, I just can’t. God hasn’t called me to go at 50%…nor has He called me to pursue a ministry with a “that’s good enough” philosophy. I figure if God gave His very best for me by sending Jesus to the cross…I am called to offer my best back to Him. (If you REALLY want to see how God feels about leftovers–check out Malachi 1: 6 – 14! ) As a husband, father and leader I am to give it my best in all that I do. That doesn’t mean that I am perfect…I am FAR from that, but…it does mean that all that God has called me to do that I should embrace and do with all my heart…knowing that He will make up the difference!

So You Think You Can Dance?

I never thought I’d be confessing this, but I’ve become addicted to a dance show. It probably has something to do with having a daughter majoring in dance next year so I find myself watching dancers with a little more knowledge. Still, I never thought I’d be discussing the difference between popping, hip hop, krump, ballroom and rumba dancers (among a whole bunch of other styles).

I really never thought I’d have a favorite dancer on a reality competition show (but I am a big fan of Twitch). So tonight, after attending our daughter’s summer league basketball game I’ll be hurrying home to find out who is moving on to the next round of So You Think You Can Dance.

Face to Face

At breakfast this morning a friend quoted a great line from the movie “We Are Marshall.” I probably won’t remember it exactly but it goes something like:

“You didn’t propose to your wife with a letter and she didn’t say yes over the phone.”

Change “letter” and “phone” to email, text message, voice mail and you really capture the challenges of communication today. There are moments, especially when emotions are involved, that the only appropriate communication is face to face.

Too many times I respond with an email when I should have made a phone call or make a phone call when I should have initiated a face to face conversation. The more important the issue and the more passionate the emotions – the more critical it is for personal contact.

We live in an increasingly high-tech world (which I love) but we retain hearts in need of high-touch.

Pefect Love

Psychologists tell us that we are born with two fears:

The fear of falling and

The fear of loud noises

Every other fear is learned.

Quick think of how many things you are afraid of – sharks and horror movies are at the top of my list.

In the love note from God we’ve been reading together we find this promise:

Perfect love drives out fear.

God love (the only perfect love I know of) takes away our fears and as John writes a few verses later, enables us to overcome the world.

Only do

In some relaxed reading yesterday afternoon I came across a great and challenging thought:

Only do what only you can do

It helps to say it a few times and let it sink in.

Since reading it I’ve been reflecting on how often I try to do what others can and should do. It’s a challenge is to constantly be focused on what I do best – on the things that only I can do – and let go of other things (that others usually can do better than I could).

It reminded me of something Thomas Merton wrote:

A tree glorifies God by being a tree.

When we try to be something other (whether it is more or less or simply different) than the “tree” God created us to be – then we cease to live for His glory – and often we begin to live for our own.

The challenge is to stick to being ourselves and doing, and only doing, those things that we were uniquely created to do.

Only do what only you can do.

It’s worth a try.


One of my all time favorite leaders is polar explorer Ernest Shackelton. If you aren’t familiar with the story of his voyage and leadership of the Endurance. I would highly recommend Shackelton’s account of the journey “South” or Alfred Lansing’s retelling in “Endurance.”
When Shackelton was looking for a crew for his expedition to Antarctica he ran this announcement in the papers:

MEN WANTED for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

He received 5,000 responses for the 27 available positions!

It is a great lesson that we love to respond to challenges.

What God-sized challenge is being presented to you today?


Saturday afternoon I had a unique interruption – unique in the sense that I allowed myself to be interrupted

I was in the front yard trimming the hedge that is on one side of our driveway, when the interruption occurred. Trimming the hedge is a task that needs to be done twice a year and not one of my favorites. The only part of the trimming I really enjoy is the chance to use a power hedger I got a couple of years ago especially for this job. Any opportunity to use power tools is a good thing.

The noise of the hedger drowns out almost everything else so I didn’t hear the man approaching me on the driveway until he was right behind me. I’m not sure which of us was more startled when I turned around with the blades of the hedger pointed right at him.
He recovered and asked me if I was interested in having our house number repainted on the front curb. You’ve probably seen these in neighborhoods around town. Typically it’s a white rectangle with black letters. Ours had evidently been painted on years ago because it was faded almost beyond recognition.

I agreed that it needed to be redone and that he should do it and then rather than returning to my hedge while he worked on the curb (which is what I would usually do), I stopped and sat down on the curb next to him while he painted.

Mike, that’s his name, shared some wonderful stories with me – some of which might even be true. Mike makes whatever he can by riding around on his bike painting street numbers on curbs. He may be the slowest painter ever, partly because he keeps stopping to tell a joke or a story – but each story was like a small gift that he was sharing with me.

Mike told me that a lot of people rudely brush him off when he approaches them (later that afternoon I watched one of our neighbors do just that) and I felt a little guilty knowing that had been my intention when he first approached me.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should sit down with every stranger that approaches them. That evening I told our daughters that they should never do what I did with Mike – sadly the world is just too dangerous at times. But I am suggesting that most of us – including me – walk too quickly by the people around us, especially the people who on first glance seem insignificant – we too quickly judge people’s value based on their appearance – we too seldom let ourselves be interrupted.

I’m glad I was interrupted on Saturday. I’m glad that I got to meet Mike and to be reminded of the simple gift of a curbside conversation.

Pale Blue Dot

On Valentine’s Day 1990 the spacecraft Voyager 1 took an amazing photo 4 billion miles away from home. The photo became known as “the pale blue dot” and was the inspiration of a book of the same title by astronomer Carl Sagan. Sagan makes this comment:
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

I’ve had the “pale blue dot” photo on my computer throughout today. It’s been one of those ministry days with a little bit of everything: an early morning meeting for Men’s Ministry, a quick hospital visit, working on the church budget (and worrying about rising transportation and energy costs), preparation for the weekend message and looking ahead to coming weeks, pastoral counseling with a couple, various staff concerns and writing – all taking place on that pale blue dot – just a speck “suspended in a sunbeam." It makes you feel small and significant at the same time.

Yet the inhabitants of that dot are known and loved by the One who spoke galaxies into existence.

The Art of the Longview

I was reading this morning and came across a great quote by Canadian novelist Robertson Davies that offers a nice thought for the day:

“Pessimism is a very easy way out when you’re considering what life really is, because pessimism is a short view of life. If you look at what is happening around us today and what has happened just since you were born, sometimes you can’t help but feel that life is a terrible complexity of problems and illnesses of one sort or another. But if you look back a few thousand years, you realize that we have advanced fantastically over time. If you take a long view, I do not know how you can be pessimistic about the future.”