Saturday, September 30, 2006

The importance of remembering

While on my visit to Gulfport, MS, last week, I drove along US 90 east from New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina's devastation is obvious even now, a year later. I was struck by this particular building showing how high the water surge was in the town of Slidell, LA. I wanted to drive through Slidell because my father lived there as a child. It seemed like a quaint old town. It was obvious, however, that recovery still has a long way to go.

I was thinking of a spiritual message behind this picture. We go through life experiencing the inevitable floods of trial and difficulty. Even as Christians we are not immune; in fact, Scripture says we should expect to suffer (John 16:33). So we should be grateful whenever the floodwaters subside and we're able to walk on smooth, level ground again.

But as this picture illustrates, it's important to remember our past trials, so that we're not caught off guard when they return. I learn from this picture that it's good to journal, to reflect upon our sufferings, to share our stories with others -- so that we can learn vital lessons about ourselves, God, and life that will help us endure the next flood with grace and wisdom.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"The Office" week 2

Last night's episode of The Office restored my faith in the writers after the debut that I didn't like. It was funny!

Before I went to seminary I worked for a year at an office supply company in Greenville, SC. The episode's portrayal of Michael and Dwight's experience at the office supply convention brought back horrible memories! It was very accurate and hilarious.

One thing I don't understand: Angela seems very different this season. What happened to her over the summer?! I guess the answer to that is: Dwight.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Here are a few pictures of my grandson Tate. I've already measured his IQ and it's off the charts. I can also see Heisman written all over him.

Actually, whatever he does and doesn't do in life is just fine with me.

He's been amazingly calm so far. In the hospital he was looking around all over the place like he's very curious about this big new world he's a part of. He's eating well too. Tyler & Eben are very proud to be "bigger sister" and "big brother." So we're all VERY thankful to God. Thanks for your prayers and comments.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tate is great!

I am happy to announce to the world the birth of Tate Fox Castleman, my 3rd grandchild, today at 11:35 a.m. He weighed in at 6 lbs. 9.5 oz., and 19" long! I took a bunch of pictures and will share a few when I get home. Thank you for praying! Rebecca pushed for about 10 minutes and that was it. She's doing great, and so is Tate.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Can't wait for Tate

I am in Gulfport, MS, with my daughter Rebecca and her family. She is scheduled to be induced tomorrow morning to give birth to her 3rd child, a little boy already named Tate. Please pray for her!

Friday, September 22, 2006


I was so looking forward to the season debut of The Office.
It was a let-down. The whole episode was "gay" this, "gay" that. "He's gay," "she's gay." Come on, writers. You can do a whole lot better than that. Is this the new theme of the show now?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

7 more days

My 3rd grandchild (Tate Fox Castleman) is about to be born! My daughter Rebecca is scheduled to be induced next Wednesday, Sept. 27. That's also her husband Scott's birthday, his grandfather's birthday, and my mother's birthday! I had already planned to fly out and see Rebecca & her family next week, so I'll be there for the big delivery. The providence of God is amazing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What I liked about this weekend

1) Clemson beat Florida State.
2) I talked with my granddaughter Tyler on the phone.
3) I taught a great group of people in the membership class at my church.
4) Ande got ordained. Reformed University Fellowship is now a reality at UCF!
5) I went to Smokey Bones with my sons David and Michael and David's wife Lindsay.
6) Florida beat Tennessee.
7) We had a great discussion of the movie The Village in Sunday School.
8) I grilled out some pork chops.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

If you want to see a depressing movie, see Little Miss Sunshine. Depressing because there's not a positive character anywhere. There are some very funny parts to the movie, and the acting is outstanding (especially by 10-year old Abigail Breslin, who was so good in Signs); but the fun is overshadowed by the cynicism and ugliness of people who believe in nothing and no one bigger than themselves.

The family that is the centerpiece of the movie suffers from all sorts of sad dysfunctions. There's a gay uncle that failed at suicide and is now devoid of hope . . . a cold taskmaster of a father . . . a son that won't talk and hates everybody . . . a daughter that performs a striptease at a beauty pageant for children (from which the name of the movie comes) . . . a mother who has a trace of compassion but is caught in the middle of all the family squabbles . . . and, worst of all, a grandfather who is the most foul man you can imagine. I winced every time he opened his mouth.

It could be argued that the family learns to accept each other in spite of their problems, and therein is redemption. But their hearts are still cold and egocentric at the end of the movie. God is ignored and unwanted. The teenage son in the movie wears a t-shirt that says "Jesus Was Wrong." That pretty much sums up the worldview of this family.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I forgot to blog about something really important. I'm now the father-in-law of a fellow Presbyterian minister! My son-in-law Scott (Rebecca's husband) was ordained a few weeks ago. He is pastoring two different churches in Gulfport, Mississippi - Orange Grove Presbyterian and Handsboro Presbyterian. Both congregations were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina a year ago. Groups from all around the country have been coming in for months now and helping restore the church buildings and the houses of Gulfport residents. The manse that Rebecca & Scott will live in had to be completely gutted and basically rebuilt.

The top picture is that of Scott getting "robed" by his dad (another Presbyterian minister) during the ordination service. The other picture shows how much history the Handsboro congregation has.

I'm really proud that my kids love God and are building His kingdom. Prayin' for you, Scott.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 memories

I have vivid memories of September 11, 2001.

I was in Jackson, MS, visiting my daughter Rebecca and her husband. Rebecca was about 3 weeks away from giving birth to her first child and I wanted to see her pregnant one last time. I woke up around 7 a.m. that day -- it was a Tuesday -- and took Scott to work. He was youth director at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson at the time, and Rebecca and I wanted to keep the car that day. After I dropped him off I headed over to Dunkin' Donuts to pick up breakfast for Rebecca and me. On the way I turned on the radio. The John Boy and Billy Show was on. But instead of hearing them laughing and joking around, I heard them talking about a plane that had just hit the World Trade Center.

So I forgot about the donuts, hurried to Rebecca's house, and turned on CNN. Needless to say, Rebecca and I were glued to the TV the rest of the day. While it was a horribly sad day, I was glad I was able to share in it with my daughter. It made the day that much more memorable.

The airports were closed the next day when I was scheduled to fly back to Orlando, so I rented a car and drove home. I remember that trip well. It was surreal. I've never been so glad to be home with my wife, son, and friends.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Visited FSU today

Suzy & I took our son Michael to look at Florida State University in Tallahassee today. He's a high school senior now, and FSU is one of 3 colleges he's considering for next year.

I went to a small college in SC that had about 2,000 students. FSU has a student body of almost 40,000. I would be totally overwhelmed trying to find my way around campus! But I was impressed with what we saw today.

Time will tell where Michael will end up. It's something I pray about a good bit. I met my wife at college . . . my two daughters met their husbands at college. So a lot happens to people at college! I pray God will direct Michael's steps through the big decisions ahead.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


When I think of my sins and confess them to God, I tend to focus on the "technicolor" sins . . . you know, the ones that get preached about all the time: greed, idolatry, lust, deceit, laziness, and so forth.

But when I'm really honest with myself, and take a deeper look, I see something far uglier at the core of all those other sins: self-absorption. I often wonder if I've ever
really loved anybody. When I look closely at some of the "loving" things I do and say, I see "self-serving" written all over them.

C. S. Lewis once wrote a poem entitled "As the Ruin Falls." I think these lines pretty much say what I feel about myself:

All this is flashy rhetori
c about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love--a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Thank God, Jesus died for my egocentricity. I pray that the gospel will daily make its way more and more from my head into my heart and change stone into flesh.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I'm now a (reluctant) Seminole

My son David started law school at Florida State University a few weeks ago. So I have a new loyalty now . . . sort of. See, all my life I've been a rabid Clemson Tiger fan. And I always will be. And when Clemson and FSU play football (they are both in the ACC), it's no contest -- I will of course pull for Clemson. But when the Seminoles play anybody else (like Miami, whom they're playing as I write this), I'm pulling for the Seminoles.

This is an adjustment for me because I was almost a confirmed Gator fan. We lived in Ocala, FL, for 5 years, which is just 40 miles away from UF. When we lived there I went to some Gator games. But one cannot be both a Gator and a Seminole.

So I'm a Seminole, at least while David is in law school.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Instant replay

I really like what they're doing in the US Open tennis tournament. They've introduced "electronic review technology" which allows players to challenge calls by the line judges. Each player gets two opportunities per set to challenge calls. When a player challenges a line call, if he's right and the call was wrong, the player keeps his two challenges. If he's wrong and the call was right, he loses one of his challenges. It's fun to watch the electronic replay and see whether the player "wins" the challenge. I think the whole thing appeals to our desire to prove the official wrong and beat the "system."

The only thing is, it appears that the line judge is almost always right. As I write this, according to the US Open website the best day for challengers so far was August 31, but only 8 of 23 challenges went the players' way (a 35% return). During his matches Andre Agassi challenged 8 times, but won only two of them. The most successful challenger so far is Benjamin Becker (who beat Agassi today). He challenged 3 calls in that game and was right every time.

Wouldn't it be cool if we could say "challenge" whenever we didn't like something that happens to us, and we could make God move things in a better direction for us?

On the other hand, isn't that what we do every time we complain and doubt His providence?

God is the perfect "line judge," and if we challenge Him we'll never win. I think that's what Job learned. He thought he could challenge God's officiating in His life, but at the end of the book, Job says: "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:3).

In other words, life is not a tennis tournament.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


The word "coincidence" means "a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance."

The reason this word is interesting to me is that I just re-watched the M. Night Shyamalan movie, Signs. There's a great line in that movie: "Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"

That line was spoken by the main character (played by Mel Gibson) at a low point in his life when he doubted the existence of God. The question he was asking seems to be, "Is it possible that there are no accidents, that everything that happens is really part of a divine plan?" His own answer was that of a skeptic: "No, there's no One up there guiding things or taking care of us or helping us. Things happen with no rhyme or reason. Our world is governed by pure chance."

By the end of the movie, he's had a change of heart. He recovers his faith in a God who is in control of every event in the universe.

I'm not sure we can ever say with certainty what God is up to. Seems every time I think I have God figured out, I find out later I'm wrong. But we CAN look back and see how God has used things that happened to us -- even bad things, tragic things -- to mature us, to help us, to make us better people.

Can you think of something that happened to you, which at the time looked like mere coincidence or chance, but later on you discovered it had a good purpose, even a divine purpose?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Say it ain't so!

It's a tragedy I tell ya.

I got this email from Nickel Creek a couple of days ago. They're one of the best bands around today and I love 'em. I've seen them twice in concert, and I have all their CDs. The email said:
After seven years of extensive
touring in support of three
records (seventeen years as a
band), we've decided to take
a break of indefinite length at
the end of 2007 to preserve
the environment we've sought
so hard to create and to
pursue other interests. It has
been a pleasure to write,
record, and perform for you
through the years and we'd
like to heartily thank you for
your invaluable contribution
to our musical lives.


Nickel Creek

(Sean, Sara, and Chris)
I feel divorced! I'm really sad about this. I'm still not over the Beatles breaking up, and now this!

Maybe they'll change their minds. Maybe my friends Jonathan and Amanda can talk to them for me.